Skinny Jean Gardener

THIS IS SKINNY JEAN GARDENER

How to organise a Open Gardens in 48 hours

So a couple of month ago I got involved with St Helena Hospice, a charity that I was really keen on working with. If you want to find out more visit sthelenahospice.org.uk

I got involved to help advertise their Open Gardens and I thought 'hey that sounds easy, sure I'll do one of those!'. Not long after I was just speaking to a lady about it who said that they were a lot of work, and very hard to organise. Now you'd think that after a warning like that I'd be panicking and organising like or crazy, but with a week to go, very little had been sorted apart from a few raffle prizes, and my garden was a tip! But hey I've got a whole week to sort that out so no worries! Unfortunately we had 3 days of bad weather which meant we had 48 Hours to organise our Open Gardens!!!

Thursday evening and Mum and Dad were invited for dinner/ garden tidy up. Mum cut the lawn, while Myself and Dad tidied the rest of the garden sorting out chairs and tables, sweeping away the rubbish (I'm abit of a horder, so all those un finished projects had to disappear. My wife and little Olive was busy baking some cakes sorting out tea bags (460 which perhaps was an over estimation) and asking her fantastic friends to bake some more for the weekend. After about 3 hours incredibly the garden was looking ready and the cakes were cooling down. 

By Friday there was some final bits to tidy up, some turning of soil, some pinching of tomato plants, a few colourful plants to go in.

By this time I was panicking a little bit. Not because we were not organised, but because maybe my garden wasn't the normal open gardens thing. When I think of Open Gardens, I think acres of land with 1000s of different plants from all over. I had my garden that although not small, is only really used for growing veg, my main worry was, what will people think of my garden?!?? It turns out I didn't need to worry!

Saturday morning came and the decorations went up, tea, coffee and cake were layed out and we were ready to go. I probably wouldn't have been so stressed if it wasn't for the fact I accidently cracked my outside toilet half hour before opening, leaving me to super glue it back together.. it still leaked.

12pm arrived and so did our guests. We chose to do invite only for our event to control how many people came. We had many of our neighbours family and friends and it all went without a hitch and we raised £372 in 4 hours! And we enjoyed it. So what are my top tips for organising a Open Gardens in 48 hours?..

1) Core Team - Don't go it alone, you can't do it all, so have some fantastic support from family really helps!

2) Garden Blitz - Get the family over for a garden blitz, tidying beds and cutting grass really makes a difference. 

3) Raffle help - Call in some favours from friends and family a few weeks before hand for some raffle prizes. 

4) Big shop - We literally live in an age where we can walk in to a shop or order online and have decorations the next day, but 24 hours before you should have all these. 

5) Remember everyone coming is here to raise money for charity and have a good time, so don't be too crictical of yourself or your garden.

6) Enjoy it - it's a time to make new friends, welcome Nan and grandad over, and explain to your neighbours why on earth you've got an old London cab in your garden.

The time for Open Gardens is coming to an end, or so they say! My next one will be next Feb, out of season, and in the evening, lighting up the winter delights. It doesn't matter if you've got a 2 acre field or a 2 meter balcony, everyone can get involved, anytime of the year, to raise money for a great cause!

Thank you to everyone that visited! See you next year!

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Six Week Wildlife Challenge

Yes! It's the six week holidays! Finally some time away from school to chill out, relax and.. muuuuuuuuuum I'm bored! Sure.  

So yeh for any one, six whole weeks of holiday seems like a lot of fun, until it comes round and turns into one big 42 day payout of activities and organised fun. But what if I told you that you didn't need to head to expensive theme parks, watch 20 films in the cinema or pop into town and end up buying yourself, the kids, their friend, their friends friend, Nan, auntie and your sister a drink, sandwich ..oh and you want a cake too? From Starbucks. What if everything you needed was just one step outside your back door?

For the second year in a row I'm here to help you through these 6 week holidays. This year with Mano Mano, we've put together 6 awesome, really easy and cheap makes to turn you garden into a Wildlife Resort!

Often in the garden we make sure we have a seating area, BBQ area, paddling pool area, but what about an area for the wildlife? These makes are for the whole family to get involved in, and when I say cheap and easy, I really do mean it! Nothing used in these makes are extraordinary, and pretty much most of it you could find around the home or in Dads shed! 

The first week starts with squirrels. No secret here, but they are one of my favoutite animals, and usually the answer to, 'if you were and animal..'. I'm lucky enough to have a few squirrels in my garden hiding their nuts everywhere, but it's always nice to entice them into the garden. Here the first Squirrel feeder video..

Will you take the #6WeekWildlifeChallenge? Find a different video each Wednesday on the Mano Mano Facebook and YouTube  + I'll be sharing them too on my social media!

Shedtastic Project

5 mins

The humble shed. Once an overflow of the loft. A place to store those 'I'll do that later' jobs. The place where tins upon tins of paint go to slowly dry up because you will use it gor another job at some point. But all that is about to change. 

Back at the start of May I headed to Grand Designs Live for inspiration. These shows usually get the imagination flowing, and it's here I stumbled upon The Grand Shed Project that was sponsered by AXA Insurance. 

What I found was 5 separate sheds, all of which had been designed invidually into ourdoor spaces! I loved this as I've always thought that having an outdoor room really makes the most of your home and garden. 

One of the sheds had been transformed into a Reading Snug, of which I believe won the public vote, with a sofa and boom shelves sourrounding the shed. A Miami Beach styled shed included a bar, the boutique bedroom had a full bed in a shed! and the sowing shack created an amazing working space freeing up room in the house. I come away full of dreams and ideas ready to get stuck into my very own grand shed project. 

Returning back to Colchester I sat in the garden looking out at the areas of which I could build my creation. The potting shed was already full with plants that were happily growing away, but sat right next to it was the SJG taxi. Followers of SJG will know that the SJG taxi was a Mk 1 version of a project from a while back. It's along story, but it's now sitting in the back of my garden and has mainly been used for toy storage. 

It was then it clicked! We often have people over to stay, and what if I took the ideas and inspiration from what I found at Grand Designs Live, Grand Shed Project, and put it into the taxi. 

The taxi had already been gutted, and with a budget of around £500 I was ready to go. Even though I had £500 I didn't want to spend it all if I didn't have too. Plus I was on a mission to prove that it wouldn't take a lot of money to do. plus I only had 3 days to do it, I'd need some help and luckily I had Dad on hand. 

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To start I wanted to turn the taxi into a cosy area, so when your in there it didn't feel like you were sleeping in the back of a car. The first day, the heavens opened and cladding out the taxi was a struggle, luckily Dad helped deal with this with ease and by the end of it all I was £120 down but all the woodwork was done. The bedbase was ready and the cladding up and ready for decor.

The idea was to take a peice of each shed and install it into the taxi space. As I went on the hunt for paints, pillows and canvas it become clear that one shed was in my head, and was a strong design factor on this project.

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With the bold strong dark exterior of the taxi, I wanted the interior to be bright and airy (is airy a word?) and so the Boutique bedroom ideas came forward the most. Another £120 later and the duvet was ready to go on the bed. 

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After 2 more days of painting and adding 'nic nacs' here and there the tax was ready for its new life as a bedroom and with a little bit more spent on lighting I'd came under budget by £200 and my first night in the taxi, minus the very small leak, was an absolute success! 

Now it may seem I've missed a few bits out of this blog here.. maybe you feel you need more? A video perhaps? A series? And luckily for you there's a whole lot over on the YouTube channel, so check out the full story there! 

Want to see more? Head to Skinny Jean Gardener YouTube channel today! 

Want to see more? Head to Skinny Jean Gardener YouTube channel today! 

Bloom 2017

3 mins

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At the start of June I was asked to head to Dublin and take the 'Weekend Tea Break' Gardening Podcast & Skinny Jean Gardener to the Bloom Festival!

I absolutely love Dublin and the chance to take the podcast there was a very exciting prospect indeed. So yeh, I jumped at the chance!

Having never been to Bloom before, I asked around about how the show was, and a lot of feedback I got was that it was the Chelsea of Ireland. What I found was it was nothing like Chelsea.. it was much much more! 

Everything I do, I always take a view from a family and kids perspective and I was really not disappointed.  

First things first, Bloom has gardening at its core! The show gardens are at the incredible Chelsea level, built at a fraction of the cost. Actually coming away from a garden show with inspiration is exactly why we all visit these shows, and I personally come away with inspiration in abundance. Highlights for me have to include Des Kingstons, (winner of tv show Super Garden in Ireland) garden, which was an incredible mix of upcycled, rusty pieces including the front of a car and large upcycled cable drum that had been turned into a water mill! I gelt a connection to Des, as like me he was a collector of the weird and wonderful, although much of mine has been cleared, "to make the garden safe for Olive", Des continues to bring this awesome stuff home with him that he finds, just like I would.

‘Everyone has a Dream’ by Leonie Cornelius, was another garden that really caught my eye. It was part of the medium size gardens with a seating area looking over a small pond. The planting was fabulously wild, something that I would personally like in my own garden, although every time I popped over her son was cleaning out the pond/ now in my mind, swimming pool, but it was just a garden that you could really see in someone's home.

A 'Dispicable Me' garden also drew me in, as not only is it my daughters favourite film, but also the gardens and the giant Grew flowered characters brought the children into the show gardens, and even I got excited when the minions turned up. I think having something like this amongst the show gardens is incredibly bold and reinforces the view that gardening is for everyone, young and old.

These were just my top 3 at the show, but others were equally as impressive. Giant colourful helta skeltas, a garden where the tide went in and out every hour and a large calidoscope for all to look into got the imagintion running. 

As I strolled around the gardens a child said to their Mum and Dad, "can we go to the kids zone now?!" With the reply "let's have a look at the gardens first and then we'll go there".  Something I already know too well, even after two years, known In the parent industry as a 'bribe', this seemed to work, and the family continued their adventure around the gardens. Perhaps without this incentive that family would have never seen those gardens, those parents would not have enjoyed their day, but this was not just a garden show with a kids play area stuck to the side, oh no, this was a full blown family day out. 

I always enjoy seeing a garden show that has activities for kids to learn about gardening and adult too! If anything I think Bloom had too much! Which is amazing! Everywhere I looked there was GYO stages, sowing seeds for free, learning about wildlife and so much more. It was incredible to see everyone getting involved and coming away with some GYO info! And then the Kids Zone had everything that a child would want, with toys, magicians and bubble workshops!

It was the added extra of food that turned this show, into a festival. That and the music stage, where you could enjoy some lunch while listening to some local talent! I've always said that growing for purpose joins the dots for gardening and food. If we know what we're growing for, then we are more likely to look after our plants. That's why I really enjoyed the mix of gardening, food and Music. 

Its often I go on these garden adventures and ask my wife and Olive to join me, and often it's the thing "well it's not going to be much fun for Olive is it?!". Well I can say than next year when I go back I will able to say there is so much for Olive to do, and us as a family, and if that doesn't prove how much of a success my visit to Bloom festival was, I'm not sure what will!

Over the next few weeks on 'Weekend Tea Break' gardening podcast there will be a Bloom SPESH, + Garden chats with Top Dog Gary Graham, and garden designers Leonie Cornelius & Des Kingston  SUBSCRIBE TODAY to never miss a pod!

Finally I just want to say a big thank you to Bloom for inviting me over to Dublin for the festival, and for looking after me while I was there. Everyone was very kind and happy, even after running around for 5 days straight. Big thanks especially to Gary and Bairbre and I look forward to hitting it up again in 2018!

Thanks for having a little read. If you enjoyed it, do me a favour and give it a little SHARE, would be really appreciated! Thanks Lee x

Build Your Own Mini Pond

You will need; a spade, a washing up bowl, some bricks, roofing tile, plants.  

Back in 2015 Skinny Jean Gardener headed to the Blue Peter Garden at Media City to add a bit of awesome. It started with this fantastic and simple make that I replicated back at SJG HQ. The one at Blue Peter was so good, someone stole it!

Now the one at SJG HQ has been going strong for a couple of years, it's home to a little family of frogs, that possibly wouldn't be hanging out in the garden without it. 

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All you have to do is find an area of your garden that you would like to dedicate to wildlife.  

Grab you washing up bowl and dig this into the ground and place some bricks into the bottom. The bricks hold the bowl in place, but also make it easy for the frogs to get in and out of the water. Plus they don't want to constantly be swimming. 

With the roofing tile place this over 3/4 of the bowl, as this will provide some protection and shade for our hoppy friends, and then fill the bowl with water. 

for planting you could look into pod friendly plants, but personally if surrounded by mini pond with lavender plants, which started off as the smallest plug plants, and have surrounded the mini pond well, creating more protection for wildlife, as well as attracting those all important bees!  

As a side note, I'd suggest if you've got real little ones like my 2 year old daughter, that you fence this little area off, as we wouldn't want them drinking the water.  

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If you need any help over the weekend drop me a tweet or message me on facebook! Plus I'd love to see so pictures.

They'll be a different gardening challenge for the family each week!

FAMILY

Welcome to the Brand New FAMILY page.. Bringing you weekly activities to do in the garden with your friends and famo! New content coming very VERY soon. Find out more on the ol' social media!