Hello and welcome to my garden

407914_10151301884339931_1667417092_nHello, you’ve somehow stumbled onto my blog! Well done, but don’t go, even if you were searching for something else. Stay awhile and have a little browse of what I’ve been up to.
First warning is this blog is about gardening and so if you are up for it and have a mild interest in gardens, then you may not die of boredom. Insomniacs, you have found Eldorado and I’ll have you off to sleep in a jiffy.

Obviously I’m an enthusiastic gardener and vegetable grower and I earn my living as a graphic designer and illustrator. I work on Garden Answers magazine in the UK which is officially the fastest growing magazine in the country. But this blog is my personal journey through the perils and triumphs, tantrums and miracles of gardening.

Visual treats
I also couldn’t resist showing you the illustrations that I do for Garden Answers. They are all about bringing to life Dawn Issac (Gold medal award-winning designer) magnificent garden ideas so that readers can get her idea in glorious technicolor.

Veggies
I have and allotment and a small town garden in Northamptonshire in the UK. I love my little garden because it is easy to adapt to whatever my current obsession is.  I don’t know about you, but gardening never stops. It’s not the up-keep so much but the design and desire for something new. The knowledge of plants grows too and this stimulates ideas for all seasons.

It’s not all about the plants
The space is small and private and place that I can express myself that’s different from my home interior. It’s obviously seasonal but not if you have a she-shed too.

The she-shed
The she-shed

The shed is part of the garden and a focal point. It’s a place of creativity that’s not only about gardening but other projects with stuff on-the-go and stuff in progress. It is the engine room for my creativity and brilliant place to go when its raining.

 

The day I first clapped eyes on my little garden.
The day I first clapped eyes on my little garden.

The garden
People think its easy-peasy having a small garden. It is in a way but its a much more intense as it really is all about the detail.
My deck area measures 8 square meters, the main area 33 square meters with a side bit of 15 square meters, where I have the green house. Its 56 square meters in all.
Just like your favorite room in your home, you want it to look gorgeous, maybe neat and tidy, possibly a little too ordered if you are like me.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing as you will see in the before photo here. Before pic what the builders didBut the builders could have done worse. I have ended up with a lot of walls. Other people walls. So its these that I am gradually making the most of with trellis that I have built myself, obviously in the she-shed! See below my herb rack that has been a delight outside the kitchen.

Herbs are thriving and look great all together.
Herbs are thriving and look great on my trellis.

Growing my own
I have an allotment too and although demanding it is educational, but also a place of peace, it’s why I have loads of stories to share with you. From the promising baby seedlings in the green house to the grandeur of the summer spectacle to the ultimate harvest.

Everyone needs bunting in their lives.
The start of something big, fingers crossed.
Allotment August 2014
Time for a sit down and a cup of tea, and admire my handy work.

Gill Lockhart

Design Solutions

Design Solutions
My favourite ten…
Got a design problem with your garden? is it an awkward shape, too shady or overlooked? Or would you prefer a particular theme like a jungle look, or seaside feel? All these questions are answered by Dawn Issac* in Garden Answers magazine and I’m the lucky one that illustrates Dawns vision. Enjoy my favourite ten below…

The Gallery: tap on an image to see the full picture.

Back to the drawing board!

I took this opportunity to hone my illustration skills when Garden Answers needed  to illustrate the garden plans. The editor, the fabulous Liz Potter, commissions Dawn to come up with a design tackling a specific problem. Dawn supplies a simple sketch that I use as the basis of the illustration then I embellish it like a giant digital collage.
Giant! I am not joking. Each object, whether it’s a plant or a chair, is carefully cutout from my archive of images.
Textures, watercolour washes and ink-work are done the old fashioned way on paper. Then I photograph it and import it into photoshop so that I can get the hand-done look.  Organization, hours of picture research and a tiny grasp of perspective is all you need. Plus knowing the odd retouching trick, messing about with filters, the odd bit of warping and colour replacing. Below you can see how I’ve used Dawns initial sketch as a template then slowly built up the plants, building and water feature. 

Dawn Issac
Dawn is an RHS Chelsea medal-winning garden designer and author of Garden Crafts for Children, Things For Kids To Do On A Rainy Day, 101 Briliant Things for Kids to do with Science as well as contributing to Garden Answers magazine.
http://www.dawn-isaac.com

Transform a dull shed into a gorgeous she-shed

She shed book
http://www.affirmpress.com.au ISBN 9781925344547 should you wish to purchase!

Breaking, breaking news: THE BOOK IS OUT…

Not so breaking news
The She Shed gets featured in Modern Gardens Magazine!

The lovely people at Modern Garden Magazine chose my she shed to grace their pages. Very proud.
The lovely people at Modern Garden Magazine chose my she shed to grace their pages. Very proud.

Ugly ducking gets a facelift

From ivy glad, to nightmare, then a beauty is born!
From ivy glad, to nightmare, then a beauty is born!

When is a garage not a garage? When you can’t get your car in it. So what to do is to turn it into something else that is far more useful and beautiful. I fancied a craft workshop where I can make things like my trellises and renovate furniture.

She shed book jacket
She shed book jacket

While all this was going on little did I know that a book about She-Sheds was hatching on the other side of the world and pretty soon I was invited to contribute and tell my story.

  • Affirm Press
  • ISBN 9781925344547 |
  • May 2016

And so the work continued

My garden while the builders were here….

The day I first clapped eyes on my little garden.
The day I first clapped eyes on my little garden. First thoughts were get rid of the grass and paint the door with fake panes of glass. It stood the test of time (the door idea) but eventually a major revamp was planned.
Builders before&after
Desolation when the builders were here, but look at it now!
When ivy was the thing to treasure...
Long ago when ivy was the thing to treasure…
Eeek! The ivy roots have taken hold.
Eeek! The ivy roots have taken hold.

OUTSIDE
My garden has undergone several grand facelifts, the most dramatic being when the builders nearly destroyed it.
My disused garage was next on the list for a bit of love.
The building used to looked lovely cloaked in ivy several years ago. I even had fun stenciling the door. But the ivy started to cause damage to the structure, so it had to go. But disaster, the roots had imbedded themselves into the pebble-dash and looked terrible. So awful that I had  to have the surface clad with timber.

I also want lots of light in my creative space and so a pair of french doors were acquired for free as a friends neighbour was replacing her conservatory. Did I mention that I’m on a budget too?

The green wall planting. Winter plants on their summer holidays.
The green wall planting. Winter plants on their summer holidays.

Work has started and so my New Year project is to paint my new workspace doors. Then I might build one of my bespoke trellises to grow more manageable climbers such as clematis. Or I might place one of my favourite Acers beside the doors; its red and bronze leaves will look spectacular against the natural wood. I’m even tempted with a vertical planting idea or a ‘green wall’.

Horrid, horrid, horrid!
Horrid, horrid, horrid!
Taking shape.
Taking shape.

But painting will have to be wait until the spring when the weather gets better. This will give me time to decide.

APRIL 2015

Its now several months into the renovation and the door frames still need to be painted. But best of all I have taken delivery of a beautiful japansese acer. It softens the look of the building  and certainly makes a statement. Next purchase is a pot. Terracotta? Still undecided. Also shall I leave the wood to weather? Only time will tell.

Worth spending the extra cash on a larger one.
Worth spending the extra cash on a larger one.
Outside doors painted and makes the outside look lovely!
Outside doors painted and makes the outside look lovely!

November 2015
I finished the painting of the doors in August and took some photos as my She-Shed as really did look gorgeous. Garden News ran a picture of it one week and I was very proud. Then I put an image on Instagram just for fun and could not believe that a publisher is interested in my story. They have  invited a contribution to a book on She-Sheds. Wooohoo, how fantastic!

So I have been busy (very)  getting the inside into shape, writing the story and taking photographs. I’ll show you when I get the thumbs up. But now I need to sit and relax, in the she-shed of course.

Chelsea Flower Show 2018

A glorious May day with stunning gardens and on my birthday too.
My personal favourite was the David Harper Savills garden by Nic Howard as I just loved the sculptures. Close second is M&G Sarah Price garden with its rammed earth walls and mediterranean planting. The Seedlip by Catherine MacDonald was really creative and based on peas.  All the gardens were lovely so its always worth a look. Here’s my gallery for you to enjoy…

Chelsea 2018 DAVID HARBER SAVILLS GARDEN Nic Howard
Chelsea 2018 M&G Sarah Price
Chelsea 2018 MORGAN STANLEY FOR NSPCC Chris Beardshaw
Chelsea 2018 O MO TE NA SHI NO NIWA HOSPITALITY GARDEN Kazuyuki Ishihara
Chelsea 2018 LG ELECTRONICS Hay Hwang
Chelsea 2018 CHERUB HIV GARDEN Naomi Ferrett-Cohen
Chelsea 2018 MYELOMA GARDEN John Everiss
Chelsea 2018 LEMON TREE TRUST Tom Massey
Chelsea 2018 SEEDLIP Catherine MacDonald
Chelsea 2018 SKINDEEP Robert Barker
Chelsea 2018 WELCOME TO YORKSHIRE Mark Gregory
Chelsea 2018 SUPERSHOES LACED WITH HOPE Laura Antiss
Chelsea 2018 URBAN FLOW Tony Woods

 

January 2018

A beautiful but rare day in late January up at the plot.

Its hard not to talk about the weather!

It poured with rain, it froze, it snowed and the tail end of hurricane what-ever-your-name-is lashed its vicious tongue all across the land. That and a brief spell in hospital meant that it wasn’t until the 28th that it was nice enough to spend a pleasurable afternoon up at the allotment. I cleared away the bean poles, dug over some of the beds and have come to the conclusion that a bag of mulch spread over the area in the summer was worth every penny. Not only did it keep the weeds at bay but also kept the moisture in. This has saved me a lot of backache on the digging front. This lot in the photo above took me a couple of hours to thoroughly get rid of the weeds.

This lot will need untangling.
Home grown root veg and butternut squash were stored in a cool well ventilated place.

Storm Daisy
The storms that raged in January were Storm Eleanor, Fionn, David and Georgina. I’ve renamed the collective word for storms in January as Daisy as you can’t get angry at Daisy.
The wind had done a bit of damaged with broken frames and tangled nets. But nothing too serious. At least I’ve still got some brussel sprouts, parsnips and carrots to harvest. In fact my butternut squash has stored well and so even in January I was able to cook my own produce. Well done me!

Stuff I’d over looked in December were two packets of camassia bulbs. They were bursting inside their packets so I quickly stuffed them in some pots so at least they had a chance of survival. I’m hoping that in the spring I can put them in the front garden with the others.

Its February just around the corner and no doubt more love will be bestowed upon my plants and seedlings as February is when I get sowing.

Gill

December 2017

SNOWY WEATHER CRISPING UP MY WINTER VEG

A blanket of snow balancing on the nets.

Twice it has snowed in December! This doesn’t happen often and is so exciting when it does. I have created a Christmas dinner bed and noes the time to harvest. Although to be practical I couldn’t grow it all in one bed as roots and brassicas don’t have the same needs and my Swiss chard got shaded out by the Brussels. But under that snowy blanket lie the brussels and broccoli, then a discrete breathing space before rows of parsnips. The carrots needed a less fertile area plus different netting needs. Those carrot fly never give up and so they were sown in an adjacent bed.

My Christmas trug looked a treat though and worth all that effort.

The triumph of harvesting your home grow vegetables makes me a proud lady.
Daft parsnips again!

Those parsnips weren’t the usual pointy shape. I suspect that I didn’t prepare the ground well enough. But they tasted fantastic roasted.

Disaster were the leeks who came out in an infestation of onion leaf minor and the whole lot rotted in the ground before I noticed. I had to destroy the lot and realise that I’ll have to give leeks a miss next year in an effort to quarantine the area.

B967122A-515F-4117-ABCC-E96EB5AA4155Highlights of 2017 were a trip to the Chelsea Flower show, courgette cooking mastery, saucing endless tomatoes and general faffing in my small town garden. I’m happy with what I did last year and vow to spend more time up at the allotment  so that problems get spotted before they get out of control. I’m pleased that I’ve set up a better composting system and pleased that my crop rotation study will improve things hopefully.

Happy new year!

I’m paying attention to this next year!

November 2017

No excuse for a proper composting system now!

MY COMPOST HEAP SYSTEM ROCKS!

There comes a time when you have to get down and dirty and back to basics.  I mean getting to grips with the soil and its need for nutrients. This reality hit home after a second year of poor sweetcorn yields and I just knew that the only soil-u-tion was digging in compost or muck. This has caused many a dilemma. For years, because of the bad access at the plot , I’ve used chicken manure pellets tossed about the place randomly. So its time to get serious and crazily enough I have a compost heap already that was full but I couldn’t get in it to dig it out.

Oh cobblers!

A single compost heap will not do either as digging out the lovely stuff underneath meant climbing in and removing the top rotting layer. So I hadn’t basically.
I spied a few pallets at the back of where I worked and so armed with a tape measure was able to pick out three matching palettes. I don’t need massive pallets either as I well never fill them in one season.
I only needed three so that I’d have brilliant access.

Positioning
I placed the new pallets at right angles to the old compost area so that any inter-shoveling between compost areas would be easy. I simply tied them together with a corner stake that I hammered into place.
My original enclosure was modified by sawing the top three rungs so that I could get a shovel in easily. I sorted through what was there and am pleased that loads of lovely crumbly black gold is now ready to use.

Compost rotation

Now that I am sorted with the hardware the system is obvious. New vegetation, kitchen scraps and non-weed matter goes in the new compost enclosure while I dig out the old and use its bounty.

Don’t compost

  • Dog and Cat Poo. But horse, cow, chicken and rabbit droppings are great.
  • Tea and Coffee Bags. Rip open the bags and empty out the grains and discard the bags.
  • Citrus Peels and banana skins.
  • Onions and potatoes if left whole. This is because they might continue to grow so squash them up.
  • Fish and meat scraps.
  • Glossy or coated paper.
  • Sticky Labels on Fruits and Vegetables.
  • Coal fire ash.
  • Sawdust from treated wood.
  • Perennial weed seed heads or roots. I don’t want to risk that pesky bindweed any opportunity to multiply.

A compost recipe

  1. Combine green and brown materials (no poo). Brown being garden soil that will contain microbes and good bacteria and even lovely worms
  2. Sprinkle water over the pile regularly so it has the consistency of a damp sponge.
  3. Stir it up as that will get everything in contact with all the good bacteria
  4. When is looks like its rotted down use it! Don’t worry if there are bits of twig etc as you can always sieve that out.
New compost enclosure placed carefully next to a self-seeded, 6ft high cosmos.

October 2017

BULBS, ROBINS AND TRASHING LEEKS

Bulb planting time and I am joined by a cute little robin. I had only recently learned why robins like to accompany you whilst gardening. Obviously I have just disturbed the top layer of soil and by doing so made all those tiny insects and worms available to feed on.
But where did this little chap learn that if it hung around with the humans maybe it’ll get a cheap dinner? In ancient times robins used to follow wild boars as they scavenged the top layer of ground for roots, fruits and maybe a truffle or two for tea. Robins learnt not to be afraid of these large animals and so grew confident with their company. Now don’t you go and compare me to a wild boar though my hair has been particularly ravaged on this gusty October day. You could say I’m sporting a wild look, but that’s where it ends.
I’m happy for my little robin to follow me about. It makes a funny little chirp and curious vibrating flutter when it’s about to join me. I don’t hesitate to talk to it either. That’s not because of modern folklore’s theory that it’s a dead relative visiting. It’s a robin wanting a good old feed before winter and I’m happy to oblige.

Oh leeks why for art thou ruined?
The allium leaf miner is the culprit. It has munched its way through my lovely leeks! i done lots of research and basically I need to destroy the lot to break this little critters life cycle. plus in future not only do I need to cover brassicas and carrots in netting but now alliums too. This teeny little thug reached the UK in 2002 and has spread around the country at an alarming rate.

So how am I going to beat this pest?

Autumn leaf miner has ruined the entire crop!

So how am I going to beat this pest?
This beastie appears in March and April having overwinter in the soil. The female flies lay eggs near the base of young leek plants and makes small punctures in the onion/leek leaves in order to feed on the sap. This is where further rot can get in too and so when I harvested my leeks I notice a brown trail where the grub had munched its way into the juicy fleshy bit. When I pulled off the outer layers a small dark rice-grain-sized brown pupae wedged was between the rotting layers.
Preventing the allium leaf miner from causing damage is to prevent the flies laying eggs. I’m going to cover the crop with insect proof mesh / fleece during the two risk periods that is March to  April and mid September to mid October.
Or plant onion sets and leeks after the first danger period has passed and harvest before the second danger period occurs in September / October.

986DD620-46B4-4D6A-A9E4-A30DF3D428CE
Here are the pupae. Do not compost, and if you mistakenly put some in there get them out!

Halloween!
You may have noticed that Halloween has revved up a gear this year. Don’t be tempted to buy one of those fake pumpkins down the garden center, please buy a real one and carve it yourself. Its so much fun, really cheap and a chance to be creative. Plus when you’ve finished you can leave the pumpkin out for the wildlife to feed as squirrels love them. It doesnt stop there either you can plant one up with with plants for a dramatic effect and lastly they make good compost. So just do it!

 

Lets end of a high
Or at least on the vertical….

My pink and grey autumn wall planter!

 

 

 

Summer of 2017

Not everything in life is a bed of roses, so the saying goes, and so the day after the Chelsea Flower Show my step father died. It has been awful witnessing someone slowly be destroyed by Alzheimer’s and so things have been put on hold a little bit. I still had to work but suddenly I had also had a new set of carers to organize for my 91 year old Mum. It didn’t go well as I had to sack two. One for taking my mums bank card and PIN number, the other for allowing the carpet man swindle £240 cash from my vulnerable mum.
The responsibility has been overwhelming and took a toll on my health. But I managed to get though it and out the other side. My salvation is to loose myself in my gardening, it really is the best therapy. Things didn’t stop and I still have issues to solve but the garden soldiered on….

6BDFC6ED-4619-4CDD-B35B-1226F2FAFBA2
Heucheras, phormium, blue grass and ferns added to the exotic feel nicely.

I did a bit of a revamp in a dull area of my jungle garden.
Then there wasn’t a shortage of cut flowers. Calendulas and zinnias performing brilliantly…..

Veggies started to yield and often I was badly prepared for harvesting but nothing got wasted…

Ok, I did give away some of the cucumbers but the rest were eaten fresh or baked and frozen.
So strange times came and went. I’ve been sad and stressed by other things, my allotment kept me focused. Even though I had to force myself to go there I always ended up feeling proud and positive and darn right happy! 😀

 

Lady Delphinium & The head gardener

Whats it like to have ‘grounds’ rather than a garden? Is your space so vast that you go out for a fag round the back of the maze? Staff is almost always required and so we take a peak at Lady Delphinium and her days instructions for the head gardener Benson.

The problem of keeping the birds off your potager.
The problem of keeping the birds off your potager.
Lady D must keep up with the times.
Lady D must keep up with the times.

Springwatch is all the rage, Lady D didn’t want to miss out….

Chelsea cartoon plums
Benson tries not to snigger.

 

 

 

 

 

A blog about my gardening exploits to inspire, even if its looking like its all about go wrong. (Which it does, alot)