It’s a year or so now since Ryan and I looked at the garden and decided it wasn’t really working for us. We were standing in what we called the Sunset Strip, a weird additional patch of garden that faces west. It was fenced off from the main garden and could only be reached from the road. When we moved it in was filled with ‘low maintenance’ shrubs that had got out of hand. Since then I have used it as an allotment, with small raised beds for crops such as potatoes that mostly take care of themselves. They had to – it’s difficult to get water to them, and I actively dislike gardening in full view of people walking past.

Sunset Strip
The Sunset Strip, March 2019

Our neighbours had just had their garden fence replaced with a posh new one with concrete fence posts. Their reason for doing so was that their fence had been damaged more than once by careless drivers. Ryan thought it would be a good idea to do the same for our fence, because concrete posts and gravel boards are much more durable. We realised we could bring the Sunset Strip into the main garden, and I graciously offered to give it up as gardening space so that Ryan could build himself a workshop.

For me it means losing 4 small raised beds in an area I found hard to keep under control. It also means losing lavender shed, which we will replace with a combination greenhouse/shed in due course. And it means losing my two ‘dalek’ style plastic compost bins, which I do miss. The new plan is to replace them with rodent-proof compost tumblers, so that I can have them closer to the house. That will take some time, too.

Leftover garden
A tiny bit of leftover ‘outside’ garden

(There’s a tiny section of the Strip left outside the fence, because it’s home to a gas main for which we have to leave access, and we need to clear that out and drop some paving slabs down, and then I can use it for one or two large potted plants that are too big for the garden.)

On the upside, Ryan’s shed has never been big enough, and it’s currently crammed full of stuff, so it’s not possible to get inside. He can’t access any of his tools and extra stuff is piling up in the living room, plus it’s IN FRONT OF THE BOOKCASE and I can’t access the lower level of books – only a true bookworm would appreciate how truly annoying that can be! So, we’re both hoping life will be a little less cluttered when the workshop (which will be much larger) has been built.

Since we started the garden, Ryan has become much more of a Maker. He trained as an engineer (as did his dad), and he likes doing/making/building. He has built a succession of 3D printers and has worked his way up to some extraordinarily complex projects. His latest one is a computer-controlled decorative lighting project, which he has installed above his desk. It does a range of colour combinations; I like the one that makes it look like the Very Hungry Caterpillar. He’s now talking about making a version that looks like a sun and is controlled by sensors and will give me a visual display of things like temperature and moisture levels in the raised beds – he’s very into what he calls the ‘Garden of Things’ (smart gardening).

Ryan has a lot of good ideas for the garden. He’s working on an automated watering system (which he started in last year’s heatwave), which has little individual sprinklers in each raised bed, so the water only falls on soil. He has promised to turn the arbour we don’t use into a potting bench pergola for me and once the workshop is finished I will be nagging him to build me some dual-purpose plant supports, which not only support climbing plants but keep cats out of my raised beds, all while looking fantastic. I’ve had the idea in my head since we saw some lovely ones in Lindisfarne Castle last autumn.

Lindisfarne garden supports
Sturdy plant supports at Lindisfarne Castle

What Ryan is hoping is that he will finally find a garden project that requires a chainsaw. He loves his power tools, and thoroughly enjoyed using a borrowed chainsaw to get rid of those overgrown shrubs in the Sunset Strip. I quite often find him pouring over the SGS Engineering Chainsaw website, but from my perspective there’s no point in him having one if he hasn’t got a regular use for it. If you have any suggestions, I am sure he would gratefully receive them!

In the meantime, the next step of the garden transformation is to clear the Strip of weeds so that we can start the groundwork for the workshop. And you don’t have to feel too bad for Ryan – he’s already bought himself a shiny new nail gun, which will be a big help when it’s time to build the workshop!

Ryan dismantling a pallet
Ryan, happy with a chainsaw, in May 2015

This post has been produced in collaboration with SGS Engineering and Ryan will happily confirm his ultimate goal is to become a chainsaw owner!