Over the last few weeks we’ve been working on our garden space. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you might know that we bought a house last summer and have been busy renovating it to turn it into our family home. I’m so thankful we got to start on our garden already, as I would love to make the most of the coming spring season. It’s been my dream to have our own garden for a long time – I’ve always just had a balcony (which has also been amazing for growing some herbs and veg) until we moved into this home. I’d love to take you along on this journey with us – we are first time gardeners and will do most of this on a DIY & low budget basis. Let’s get on our small garden transformation!
What it was
Where to start? This place was a mess. It was (unevenly) paved all over, with a tiny sloping border on one side, which was overgrown with weeds. There was a massive tree that was never maintained and looked pretty sad. In autumn, it would spread berries all over our own & surrounding gardens and it was starting to rot at the bottom. The fence was one storm away from falling down, and the massive hedges at the back made it impossible to open our shed door. We definitely had our work cut out for us.
Far from this unloved garden, I was envisioning a lush, colourful & playful outdoor space as an extension of our home. While indoors we stick to a minimal colour scheme & decor, there’s not much more exciting to me than a garden that’s slightly wild & full of life! I’d love some fruit & herbs growing in between colourful borders, and a few small trees to frame the garden and provide privacy. A little grass area for our daughter to play and a curvy path leading to the shed.
We are first time gardeners, so we don’t know it all (or anything really). I have been loving Monty Don’s book in this process to learn more about gardening & design. I love his simple and passionate approach. It’s like a guide into this whole new gardeners world.
The key thing for us? Just get started. Transforming a garden can be a major project, but breaking it down into doable tasks makes it easier to get going! We didn’t have a clear garden design in mind just yet, but by removing some of the old mess it gave room for a new design to start taking shape.
So we got started with the ‘smaller’ projects: taking the fence down, replacing it with a new one, taking up section of tiles, weeding, leveling the soil, removing hedges and removing the tree. Our main aim was to be able to start planting in early spring, to make the most of the season. These jobs we’ve done over the course of the last months, starting in autumn up to now at the end of winter.
And yes, that tree. Our neighbour helped us with a chainsaw to cut it down. That turned out to the easy part: dealing with the root system was a challenge we didn’t expect to be so intense! These roots went down deep and thick. It took a little perseverance, but there was something special about the process. In the end, we got the tree and its roots out.
From this empty garden it was much easier to create a new garden design. With the help of my mum (I love their garden and trusted her opinion), we drew a plan on paper and could start preparing the patio and path for paving. There was a lot of white sand a soil shifting and SO much leveling to do, but the results are so worth it. I am loving our new garden space already, even if it’s still just stones & soil.
Small Garden Make Over: Budget Tips
We are doing this garden transformation mostly on a budget – we’re trying to cut costs where we can and do all the work ourselves. Some of the things we’ve learned to save costs:
1. Pick up paving stones for free
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Many people will redo their garden and need help getting rid of their paving stones. We found all our stones for free on an online second hand website, we just had to borrow a trailer and fetch them ourselves. It’s a bit of work, but you can save yourself so much money and develop a new garden for nearly nothing.
2. Get others involved
You might not need professional help with the garden, but if you are doing the whole process yourself, you probably could use some extra hands! We got lots of help from family, neighbours and friends, which helps so much in taking on a project like this. It makes it more fun too, and we found that people often like to help out!
3. Source free plants
Many established gardens need to take plants out to create space in the borders, or have plants that won’t work in that specific soil or sun spot. Many people will give away plants for free! Ask around or even find it online on second hand/marketplace websites. Also see if there’s any plants you could save from the old garden – we were able to keep some ferns and some beautiful hydrangeas!
4. Ask someone to help with your garden design
You don’t need a professional garden designer drawing up a perfect plan for your garden – your garden can be anything you want it to be! But if you need some help, ask someone in your circle who’s got some gardening experience to give you a hand. Pick someone whose garden you love so you end up with a plan that you are excited about yourself! There’s also lots of resources available (both books & online), with tips on where to place your patio, grass area etc.
5. Get second hand furniture
Again, it’s well worth having a look online or at thrift shops to source your garden furniture. More often than not, older furniture has a much higher quality than what you can find in store now. And if you don’t mind doing a little work like painting, oiling or fixing up, you have so many possibilities to save a stack of money!
As with many things in life, you often have to break down to build back up. This was definitely true for this garden project, and it was quite messy in between. But we got to the exciting point where we can start to build things up and focus on the planting – and I can’t wait to get started!
In the next part I’ll share about the planting, the layout and some fun features. Hoping to show you guys more soon!