Home-Grown Food – From Meadow to Veggie Patch

Creating a garden, or a veggie patch to be precise, from scratch isn’t a picnic… it’s a whole load of hard work but it is work which at the same time as being hard can also be surprisingly satisfying.

Creating a garden, or a veggie patch to be precise, from scratch isn’t a picnic… it’s a whole load of hard work but it is work which at the same time as being hard can also be surprisingly satisfying.

When we were buying our new house we knew that a part of our land would be made into usable garden space with eatable thingies growing in it. As it ended up our new home had no dedicated garden space at all. The former owners of our place didn’t grow anything besides tons of beautiful flowers including about 100 bushes of roses. They did, however, support the local bee population by having some well-developed wild meadow… All good but we needed to make the room for our veggie patch 🙂 The plan became obvious, we had to turn part of our meadow into a veggie patch!

Our preparation work began in autumn. Luckily for us, a local man in our village called Ivan owned a mini tractor and plough and was kind enough to come to us with his tractor and plough our designated field. Then nature and the harshest Bulgarian winter in 65 years did their job. Over the winter months under piles of snow, the soil began breaking down and all the wild plants and grasses turned to mulch… super, everything so far was on course for getting ready for spring.

Once the snow melted it was time for step two… rotovation. But things aren’t always going to go according to plan. The snow melted, the sun came out to play but with it came also the rain. We were told that Ivan will be able to come on the 4th day after the last rain, so we waited… One day with no rain, two days with no rain, then the rain came… and so the countdown resets and begins again… after waiting for almost 2 weeks without the needed 4-day dry stretch we decided to start to clean up the soil by hand. It was a hard task, especially for two unfit people who have never done any gardening and had spent most of the last winter chilling indoors by the fire recovering from all of last years’ stresses. But day after day, meter by meter we slowly progressed… Until finally last Thursday at about 9am the doorbell rang, it was Mimo with the good news, Ivan is on his way as today was the 4th day pass the last rains. Around an hour later of precision driving and our entire patch was all turned and cultivated.

Time for step three – root removal 🙂 After Ivan had finished rotovating the soil this task became much easier. It took us a further 3 full days to finally finish our patch. We stood at the edge and looked upon our huge area of lovely brown crumbly soil set within a backdrop of wild meadow and marvelled at the transformation and felt deeply satisfied, it was a good life moment.

At this point, we were ready for marking the veggie plots out and the essential pathways. After some arguments and lots of running about with a measuring tape, a giant ball of string and an armful of marking sticks we had completed the task and created 9 even(ish) plots plus a 10th designated for root vegetables. Happy times!

One would think that this was it, but evidently no… after we marked out our plots, it was time for the final clean-up of the soil. I was not convinced and must admit to a fair amount of whining about unnecessary extra work but Mark started turning the soil over with a spade in one of the plots, I sank to my knees and started picking up anything that shouldn’t be there. I still mumbled about the stupidity of our actions till I tried to tug a root that wouldn’t move. I blamed my exhausted arms for their lack of power and asked Mark for help. He couldn’t pull it either, so being a bloke and refusing to be beaten by a mere root he started digging, and digging and then more digging. Turns out my little root was attached to a medium sized root that was in turn attached to a giant root that finally ended in a tree stump! 2 hours of digging and pulling and just a hint of swearing and the root was out. Mark turned to me and simply said: “A waste of time hey…” I resumed picking up old roots and didn’t mutter a word. Then, at last, all the remaining roots had been picked, we raked until all was flat and smooth and we were done! All we have to do next allegedly is plant our seeds.

I don’t know if you have any experience with gardening and growing veggies but if you do, please tell me, does it get any easier? Because right about now the concept of going to the local supermarket and buying a basketful of veggies is making an awful lot of sense. We were told this is the hard part and that now until next spring it is easier, but at this point, it is really hard to believe in it.

Alfresco Living – Prepare Your Deck For The Perfect Summer

With the summer months nearly upon us, a lot of you may be looking forward to spending a lot more time outside. Specifically, if you happen to have a back deck or porch, you may be anticipating evening cocktails, cookouts with friends or family, or simply morning tea or coffee with the rising sun. If you’re like me, you’re pretty convinced that nothing beats time on your deck during the warmest months of the year.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t make that deck better!

Alfresco Living – Prepare Your Deck For The Perfect SummerHaving said that I have a few recommendations coming for how to set your deck up for the perfect summer season. So here we go…

Give It A Thorough Cleaning

First things first! Unless you have an outdoor heater or two in place, odds are you’ve spent most of the winter and spring more or less avoiding your deck area. Naturally, that means some tidying up will be in order. Cobwebs, debris, dust, and more will have accumulated, likely in a way that requires more than a quick sweeping. This list of tips for a summer ready deck or porch recommends power washing right off the bat, and I’d have to agree this is the right way to start. You can always get down on your hands and knees and scrub, but now may be a good time to think about adding a power washer to your garden shed or home tool arsenal. It gets the job done quicker, and it’s actually a pretty affordable piece of equipment.

Sand Down The Floors

Speaking of adding to a home tool arsenal, a power sander might actually be a more useful tool than you’ve realised before. Case in point, this site has a wide selection of different power sanders right alongside some far more basic pieces that are commonly found in garden sheds or toolkits so you can find just the right tool for the job. That’s because a lot of people have come around to the idea that a power sander can speed up an otherwise stressful task! Once you scrub or power wash your deck you’ll likely find the floor a little bit coarse, and sanding it down keeps it looking nice and primes it for your own barefoot lounging in the warm weather.

Fill The Space With Plants

The same list referenced previously recommends planting annuals and a variety of flowers in outdoor areas, and this may truly be the best way to make your deck beautiful and cozy during the summer. Whether it’s hanging ferns, planted flowers, or even lines of bushes or hedges around the border of the deck, plant life just feels right during the summer. It’ll help you and any guests you may have to feel like you’re truly embracing the outdoors every time you step out on the deck.

Set Up Exposed Flame

I realise this doesn’t sound like the safest or most necessary option, particularly when we’ve just discussed wooden floors, but I’m only suggesting open flames to add a little bit of light in the evenings. You might find an endless selection of attractive candle fixtures made for outdoor areas, or if you really want to cultivate a striking atmosphere you could consider something like a tiki torch in the right place. There’s something undeniably pleasant about a summer night lit up by natural flames. As long as you’re safe about it this can make for a wonderful addition to your deck in the months ahead.

Invest In Comfortable Outdoor Furniture

A lot of outdoor furniture is, frankly, crude and uncomfortable. In many cases it basically amounts to splintery wooden chairs, or canvas seating stretched over bland iron frames. These can certainly get the job done but if you haven’t visited a home and gardening shop in a while you may not have noticed that more comfortable outdoor furniture is always becoming more affordable. You can find whole sets of cushioned chairs and sturdy tables for very reasonable prices and easily make your deck more appealing as a place to lounge. And as a bonus, try to pick a uniform colour scheme for cushions that suits the atmosphere you want to create. I’d suggest a cool blue or green to fit in with nature but not compete with the vibrant colours of flowers or other plants you may have.

Prepare To Maintain

As a final point, I’d like to echo this article’s closing statement on summer deck preparation: maintain, maintain, maintain. An outdoor deck is constantly exposed to the elements, even if it happens to have its own roof or overhang to shield it from rain. Every few days at least you’ll want to sweep away dirt and dust and do any other basic upkeep that might seem necessary, or else the deck will quickly revert back to its winter condition.

Aside from these tips, it all pretty much comes down to personal taste! You’ll find all kinds of fun ways to set up your deck the way you envision it. But these ideas should serve as a foundation that can help most anyone who wants to spend the summer outside.

Inspirational Designs from Channel 4’s Amazing Spaces

Inspirational Designs from Channel 4's Amazing SpacesSince its first episode aired in 2012, the ingenuity, creativity and passion shown in George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces has inspired and influenced a variety of DIY-ers across the country to take on their own projects. From customised sheds that float on water to converted public toilets, each of these design projects showed how a creative eye, tenacious attitude and a bit of elbow grease can get you that amazing space.

Below you’ll find a few inspirational designs from the past series of Amazing Spaces:

Cormac Seekings’s Bothy

As a finalist in 2015’s Shed Of The Year, Cormac Seekings bothy was located in a picturesque (albeit wet and windy) Scottish forest. Appealing to our love of DIY and natural materials, this shed was built using nothing but raw material from the forest, including low grade timber, windblown oak, and a natural form of varnish for its finishing touch.

Laura Clarke’s Converted Underground Toilets

In the face of increasingly growing property prices, architect Laura Clarke made the choice to buya disused underground toilet in South London for a nominal fee and convert it into a habitable home.Appearing in the very first episode of Amazing Spaces, this converted public toilet retained the gated steps descending underground but after that you’d never recognise the place. Small but perfectly formed, the amazingly light home makes the most of its space featuring lounge, bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen. Needless to say with its prime location, it has since been valued at over £200,000!

Tracy Caroline Lewis’s Owl House

Another build from 2015’s Shed Of The Year, the aesthetically pleasing and cosy Owl House overlooked coastal sand dunes and was made entirely from recycled materials – it even had a living grass roof just to make it even more eco-friendly. Cosy, with amazing vistas, and all ultra-green, this converted shed was picturesque and built for purpose.

Pete’s Star-Gazing Clifftop Retreat

Using nothing but reclaimed materials from the beach, Pete’s clifftop retreat overlooked the beautiful Norfolk coast. With a background in sculpting and using no plans or blueprints other than the ones in his head, the bohemian shed had two levels with the mezzanine upstairs having a retractable roof for star-gazing with his son.Not only that but the fixed wheels meant it was essentially classed as ‘a caravan’ so he didn’t need planning permission.

Emma And Ollie’s Mobile Cinema

Looking like a collision between a bus and a green house, this mobile cinema was originally built for the Ministry of Technology to show the latest manufacturing techniques to factories around the UK. Lovingly restored from decrepitude back to its 60s glory days, the bus was structurally sound but needed a lot of work and TLC on the essentials. These days it’s a full time business for the couple, featuring restored 1930s cinema seats together with modern projection and surround-sound to seat 24 people for maximum intimacy and uniqueness.

If you don’t have the time or energy to make your own custom build at the end of the garden, there are specialised companies such as York Timber Products who can provide a variety of made-to-order workshops, sheds, and garden offices unique to you.

*Image Courtesy of Liverpool Echo