Gardening Magazine

Garden Plans for a New Year

By Julie King
It is very hard to believe but I have been creating my garden for 10 years now. When we first arrived here back in late 2009 there was very little 'proper' garden - most of the land was made up of fields and paddocks that had been used to graze horses and cattle. The area immediately around the house was largely grass with a number of beautiful old trees, but hardly any shrubs and flowers.Garden Plans for a New YearOver the last 10 years I have worked almost daily to create a garden that sits comfortably with our old victorian rectory. Now there are rose filled beds surrounding the house, a pergola draped with climbing roses, a lavender walk, a summer house surrounded by lush green planting, a baby orchard, a woodland walk, a beautiful Alitex greenhouse and a 'walled' garden (the walls are made of yew as bricks proved to be too expensive). It all sounds beautiful, but this is still a very young garden. Everything has been been planted as small specimens - there are no quick fixes or designer aspirations going on here - just the daily process of trying to create a garden in a large and somewhat unruly place. Garden Plans for a New YearSo what have I learned in the last 10 years? Some very hard lessons. This is not an easy garden - it is extremely waterlogged in the winter (no leaving dahlia tubers in the ground for me), very dry with limited shade in the summer (forget growing hydrangeas other than in pots), regularly attacked by muntjac, rabbits, rooks and pigeons and swarmed with pollen beetles every summer. So many plants have been lost, planting plans annihilated, borders shorn down etc due to wildlife and flooding that there have been times when I have felt like throwing the towel in. Garden Plans for a New YearThis garden that I have almost created from scratch is, however, written into my heart now. I think about it as I wake in the morning and as I fall asleep at night. I have had to learn incredible patience as developing this difficult site is taking far more time than I had ever imagined. Also the ability to brush off the disasters and change the plan - or at least execute it with better wildlife protections. As I move into my second decade here I am hoping that we can finally get control of the never ending perennial weeds, turn the baby orchard into a romantic rose filled space with spring bulbs at the feet of trees which drip with apples and quinces in the autumn, create a new fenced-in vegetable garden much closer to the kitchen than my current one and an extended seating area outside of the kitchen that will be surrounded by raised beds full of herbs. The existing vegetable garden will become the home for more blossoming trees, roses and flowering perennials and I would love to add a pond and a meadow. Garden Plans for a New YearThose are dreams for the future though that may or may not ever be realised - for today I have a plan that relates to the here and now. In 2020 I am determined to grow more food. When we first left London (16 years ago now although it still feels like yesterday) I was really only interested in learning how to grow vegetables in my new country garden. Then my flower obsession took hold and gradually the flowers have taken over everything. I still grow a lot of fruit, but barely even a lettuce these days. Given that I am trying very hard to reduce single use plastic in my life (reduce - not eliminate - I am no eco warrior), the obvious place to start is with food. I have no aspirations to be self sufficient, but I do think in the productive summer months we could eat quite well from the garden with very few supplements. I am determined to grow my crops from seed rather than resorting to plug plants from the garden centre. Plug plants have their place of course - particularly if you don't have anywhere to start off seeds - but they come at a cost. Those plants will bring more plastic into your garden, they may not have been organically raised and transporting them from grower to garden centre will have used fuel and yet more packing materials. In the same way that I have given up using floral foam in flower arranging, I am trying to avoid bringing plastic into my garden as much as possible. Garden Plans for a New YearChoosing which vegetables to grow is hard - there is so much choice these days. My preference is for vegetables that are cut and come again such as peas, french beans, tomatoes and salad leaves - I always feel like they give me so much more for my effort. I also like to grow things that store well - garlic is a particular favourite and I can easily harvest a years supply from one crop planted in November. Then there are the crops that are just so beautiful I will have to have them - pumpkins and squash particularly spring to mind and gorgeous borlotti beans. Also I always grow sweetcorn because I love the height it brings to my plot and the childhood memories of vast fields of sweetcorn growing in Canada and the sweetcorn parties our neighbourhood held every year as the crops were harvested. In my greenhouse I will have peppers, aubergines, tomatoes and cucumbers - plenty of meals can come from those alone. And in amongst all these vegetables I must have edible flowers - violas, borage, calendula, chives, coriander, dill and nasturtiums are all favourites. The space that I have spare for vegetables isn't huge this year, so I will pick carefully and let you know my plan in a future post. I am also going to revisit a series of posts about vegetable growing that I started in the early days of this blog and update and republish them - hopefully I will finish the series this time. Garden Plans for a New YearWith all these vegetables to eat I will be looking to move towards a more vegetarian inspired diet, so let me know if you would like me to include the recipes that I make from my garden produce here or over on Instagram. If you are not already following me on Instagram you might be interested in the daily garden prompt that I have started over there. I have called it The Daily Edit and it is a daily suggestion or gardening tip based around what I am doing every day in my garden to help you grow more in your garden. At the moment it is the usual January jobs of ordering, tidying, organising etc., but I will move on to the seeds that I sow, what is being planted out and harvested as the year moves on. No need to sign up for anything - just check into my Instagram account each day and join in with the conversation if it interests you.Garden Plans for a New Year

For me January is always a month of reflection and planning for the year to come. This year I feel very inspired by my decision to grow more vegetables and I am looking forward to sharing photos of the plot and its produce as the year goes on. In the meantime I have illustrated todays post with some photos I took in the garden last year as I have not been out with my camera yet this month. Since starting this post earlier this week I have realised that my blogging skills are very rusty and I fear it will take me a few posts to get back into the flow. I also need to do a little housekeeping here so I will try and update where needed next week.

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