Designing and Building a Tiny House, and Everything In Between. 

Ribbons, Sails 

& Dandelion Fluff

May 2020 –

Building a Shelter

Steel Frames & Cladding

Apr 20 – Jul 19

Doors & Windows

The Beginnings of a ‘Tiny’ Project

Apr 19 – Aug 17

Succulents & Raspberries;

A First Foray into Gardening.

Oct 17 – Apr 15

I admit I was always under the impression that gardening was generally a recreation for the elderly, a leisurely way to pass retirement, a form of zen and relaxation. I mean, clearly, there was some hard work involved- but overall it appeared pretty chilled. This, I rapidly discovered, was far from true, and this ‘hobby,’ it doesn’t suffer weakness.

Everything is constantly demanding your attention, challenging you to ask questions,  ‘Should my radishes be flowering?’ ‘Why is that succulent turning yellow? Is the soil too dry? Too moist?’ ‘When do I harvest my Pak Choy?’
Something is always going on, the plant life constantly evolving.  My poor family members are constantly being called upon to admire promising buds, exclaim at growing Bryophyllums or have their minds picked over the best location for a new addition. Everyday you are encouraged to innovate, to invent and to learn, and this week the challenge was birds. They just kept making mockery of my humble defences and in doing so, made a mess of freshly sewn seeds and young seedlings.

My solution? Some very-thrown-together netted cages. Nothing ground breaking, but effective, if a little shabby. A few tomato stakes, divided up into sets of four, knocked together with some longer lengths and a draping of bird netting. An access flap was added to the ‘front’ and I bent some wire into simple prongs to pin the sides to the bed. These I wrapped in green duck tape so I wouldn’t lose them.

Next season without a doubt, they will need some refining. However thus far they are keeping the birds out, and therefore working perfectly. Challenge accepted and conquered.

Mother Nature, I look forward to the next curve ball.

With my veggie patch well on the way, the long weekend provided the perfect opportunity to fill in some of the spaces.  With plans to make this area as productive as possible, but also, a delightful place to be, I felt an injection of flowers was in order.

First I companion planted nasturtiums under the pre-existing lime tree; not only will these bring a delightful punch of colour, but they are also entirely edible so I look forward to sprinkling the flowers and leaves over summer salads and cupcakes. Next off: Herbs. An absolute essential addition, especially as the pre-established ones already around the garden were beginning to look very tired. However these I didn’t want to place in the veggie beds themselves; I had realised, after close inspection, that the cubby house-turned-shed had potential as a rooftop garden and this was where I wished to plant my herbs. Not only could I ensure I was saving precious ground space, but the location would provide them with plenty of sunshine. (I should mention this is not a tall cubby house, the roof is very accessible.) I quickly established two rows of potted plants- a row of herbs and a back row of hardy perennials- namely red and blue salvia. I also added some marigolds and white cosmos- I don’t know how they will cope, but hopefully they will act as a bee attracter, so I took a chance.

Rummaging around the cubby-house-turned-shed I found some abandoned vertical hanging growing bags. Note- apparently these have fallen out of favour, as I could not find anyone who stocked them. Perhaps they are not very effective? Or simply are considered quite kitsch? Still I had three, so within these I planted:
1. Strawberries, with a sprinkling of spring onion seeds to grow out the top.
2. Mixed lettuce leaves and rocket
3. Leftover Tommy Toe tomatoes seedlings and basil. I’ll be honest I have no idea how, or even if, these will work but we shall see.

With my plans of purchasing more vertical growing bags dashed, I still had plenty of fence space. Here I attached two hanging baskets and planted the remaining mixed lettuce leaves in one, and a sad-looking 50 cent wasabi rocket in the other, I also threw in some dill and oregano seeds for luck.

Finally I planted the remaining marigold and cosmos in the bare veggie bed. These will brighten up the bed without messing with the soil for next crop rotation. Well supposedly. I think.

I started planting my veggie patch in early September, the beginning of Spring. With two raised garden beds, divided in half each, I had four veggie patches to fill. This was my P.O.A (Plan of Attack.)

~ Companion plant Beetroot and Spring Onions
~ Split one of the four beds to allow for a bean trellis
~ Plant a bed of greens in the remaining space
~ Companion plant Radishes and Carrots in another
~ Leave one patch bare to allow for seasonal crop rotation
~ Hang 8 hanging baskets of cherry tomatoes
~ Plant cucumbers in a nearby planter box
~ Plant 2 containers of potatoes

The varieties I chose are listed below, they were all grown from seed:
~ Bull’s Blood Beetroots (directly planted)
~ White Lisbon Spring Onions (directly planted)
~ Painted Lady Heirloom Beans (directly planted)
~ Little Finger Carrots (directly planted)
~ Oriental Radishes (directly planted)
~ Lebanese Cucumber (directly planted)
~ Choy Sum, Pak Choy and Chinese Broccoli (directly planted)
~ Tommy Toe Tomatoes (seed trays, then transferred)
(Unfortunately I can’t remember what variety of Potatoes I grew! This is precisely why I need to remember/be bothered to label my plants!)

The seeds took a while to get going, but as of now, they are well on their way- with the exception of the Chinese Broccoli. I have my suspicions the ‘Best Before 2013’ may have had something to do with this failure. The Tommy Toe tomatoes took a very long time to get going and only 6 of the 24 seeds sprouted, a second planting saw a much higher success rate.

veggie1Throughout this planning I constantly referred to the excellent book ‘The Little Veggie Patch- How to grow food in small spaces’ by Fabian Capomolla and Mat Pember. As a beginner, I really recommend this book, it is well laid out, has enough detail to answer nearly all of my questions, is aesthetically pleasing and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Disclaimer: My understanding of Bonsai techniques is limited, I have never attended a class or ever really talked to anyone who practices the art, if you have any advice to share you are most welcome!

In my readings I had read, a number of times, that you should have a clear vision of how you wish your Bonsai to look before you start. This makes perfect sense. So I did a few rough sketches and played around with some ideas- however, I soon realised I didn’t really have much of an understanding of how trees grow. I had never really taken notice. Does the trunk thicken first? How many branches will sprout from the limbs? When and will the small branches turn brown? Does the tree grow in height all over? Or does the trunk grow first and everything else follows? (Now that I think about it, I still have no real understanding of tree growth at all!)

Yet I was armed with borrowed copies of David Joyce’s ‘The Art of Natural Bonsai’ and Jon Ardle’s ‘Bonsai’ book so I figured I would simply try to follow the guidelines and see what happened. The results you can view for yourself.

From my inexperienced gaze I think the initial styling somewhat looks the part. Although I am certain that it is clear that I lost my nerve at the last hurdle, ridiculously leaving that single, sad branch on the left. I’m pretty sure I should have got rid of it, (I still haven’t,) but it was beginning to feel all so bare. I have no doubt it will have to go soon. What’s more I have been asking myself if there are still too many limbs? Again, any opinion in this matter would be very helpful!

Nonetheless I had actually made a start to my Bonsai dream.
Note- I am yet to repot the tree as I am allowing it time to recover. #practising patience. I did however, make an attempt at wiring. I feel this will need a revisit soon.