My first container herb & veg garden

Container Garden Smallest Smallholding

Spring is tempting me. When the sun is out, it’s glorious and the warmth is invigorating. The trouble is, we’ve been plagued by clouds and even sleet last Saturday. But I’ve been trying to plough on (not literally) and continue to make even the smallest steps of progress on my little urban garden patch I call The Smallest Smallholding.

The area between the kitchen door at the back of the house and the garden gate is fairly redundant at the moment, but in summer (and especially now we’ve been keeping the hedge height down), it can be a bit of a sun trap at certain times of the day. A bit of bare wall had become a dumping ground for old disused pots and bricks, so I decided to rip out the perennial weeds and try to smarten it up a bit.

Oregano in pot


With the short brick wall behind it the warms up in the sunshine, I thought it would be the perfect spot for putting a mini container garden. Something a bit closer to the kitchen, and something to bring a bit of life and cheer to the rambling mess outside the conservatory.

Lady Lavender variety

I started this mini side project a couple of weeks ago, using some old slates and bricks to create a shelf to keep the ants out of the pots. I began by collecting up all the sad and neglected old pots, and began planting in some lettuce plugs but this weekend I decided to add a few flowering herbs in (anything for the bees is fine by me), for both fragrance and colour. I might even get around to using the herbs in the kitchen this year! I also found a lovely compact lavender that I’ve not come across before called ‘Lady Lavender’, which has now been potted up in an old terracotta pot and added to my growing container garden collection.

Cambridge Favourite strawberries

Feeling a bit fancy free, I indulged myself with two 95p ‘Cambridge Favourite’ strawberry plants – breaking the bank, right? – which I need to pot on. I am considering pooling my pennies together and getting a few more and pulling out the old terracotta strawberry container, but I’ve not had a huge amount of success with it in the past since I’m fairly forgetful when it comes to watering. But this year, you never know. I’ll just have to see if I’m up to it since everything is becoming much more of an effort as I pass the 22 week mark in my pregnancy.

I’ll just have to keep ploughing on as I best I can (and remember to water).

Growing on a shoestring budget

Spring Border
As Spring arrives… sort of, between the grey and rain… I’m well aware that my maternity leave is approaching. And although I should have saved hundreds of pounds in preparation, the reality is that I know it’s going to be a tough slog getting through those months on statutory pay. So everything I’m doing now is in preparation for the leaner months, and I’m thinking about ways in which I can do things on a shoestring budget. Getting as much veg, herbs and fruit bushes in the ground now should help over the summer and autumn months at least.

I don’t mind doing things a little Heath Robinson… I remember watching The Darling Buds of May and loving Ma and Pa Larkin’s slightly rambling setup. And besides, I’m not a tidy person. Everything I do is always a little rough around the edges and that suits me – and the wildlife in my garden, I suspect – absolutely fine.

Last year I grew some lettuces in the big veg patch, and they were delicious… and weirdly enough, we had no slug issues. This year, I bought some bargain lettuce plugs from my local plant nursery and decided to pot them up by the back door in easy reach of the kitchen. I found a few old pots hanging about (who doesn’t have masses of pots hanging around?) and tried to use up as many large pots as possible. The bigger the pot, the less watering. I ended up having to use a range of sizes, but to be honest, with the amount of rain we’ve had watering isn’t my biggest issue right now.

lettuces in container

I placed them in a little spot in front of the conservatory that gets light for at least two thirds of the day in summer. It was looking completely ramshackle so I tidied it up and cobbled together a platform for the pots from some bricks and large slate tiles that we had to hand. Something I’ve learned over the years is that we can’t have anything like pots in direct contact with the ground, otherwise the black and red ants that love our sandy soil just move in.

I’m hoping to turn the slightly redundant space outside the back door and before the garden gate into a growing space. One side is really shady thanks to a privet hedge and and next door’s terraced housing access path. But I’ll just have to do a little research and figure out which herbs and plants will be fine in shade, and what I can fill up the sunny side with too. I’m quite looking forward to it, and doing it all on a tiny, almost non-existent budget seems like a fun challenge! She says. I’ll keep you posted…

Getting ready for Christmas… without presents

Christmas at the Smallest Smallholding

Even though it’s still 10C outside and not a snowflake in sight, we’re getting ready for Christmas. But this year, my side of the family decided that we are going to eschew the traditional gift-giving element. The more I think about it, the more I think it is a great idea.

Although I absolutely love love love giving gifts (and will try to whenever I can), at 32 I feel so utterly jaded by the constant “buy! buy! buy!” demands everywhere I turn, from Hallowe’en until December 24th. It feels like everything is just tuned in to make you part with your cash, and you’re made to feel that your Christmas will never be complete unless you’ve bought this, that and the other. Maybe I was more oblivious, but as a child in the 80s I don’t remember it being this intense. I didn’t feel like Christmas was so only about gluttony, extravagance and spending. Christmas has become a commercially-fuelled holiday, and has been for a long time. So saying a quiet “no” to a little consumerism will allow us to just enjoy some relaxed family time when Christmas Day comes along.

The Smallest Smallholding Christmas 2015 with Ozzy

Of course I am still more than happy to buy gifts for other family and friends, I do enjoy it… especially now that shopping online means I can avoid the crowds! But I am really tuning out from the non-stop commercialism of it all, and have found myself turning to hygge as my inspiration this year. Yesterday Rich brought the Christmas tree in and I got out our decades-old jumble of tree ornaments out – some inherited from my grandmother, some we bought when we got our first tree together in our early twenties – and we slung lots of lights up. Our living room might still be half renovated after I was forced to stop due to pretty severe tennis elbow, but in my mind it’s still cosy and homely. With the fire going and the animals chilling around us, I felt so warm and comfortable. I wish I had at least a month off to myself to just reset, relax and enjoy life a bit more.