Tulips and a Polytunnel

The sight of those tulips raising their beautiful heads at the end of March 2014 revitalized my joy in gardening.


I started thinking about what I could do now to make my garden pretty so I painted my front gate and fence with Cuprinol Garden Shades Willow.


At the same time, my lovely dad started building me a polytunnel of sorts using the frame from my Grandad’s old onion tent. He had the idea of using corrugated clear plastic rather than polythene to make it a sturdier build. As amazing as this all was, we have come to realise the glaringly obvious mistakes that we made. Firstly, we didn’t level off the ground. My impatience at wanting to get it done so I could grow something and also not wanting to hog so much of my dad’s time meant we did a bit of a rush job. I probably hassled him too much as well. We didn’t put the sheeting on well – it leaks terribly in places as the rain water runs down at an angle and slides through the gaps. The inside of the front is slowly going rotten now.

Although, this polytunnel will need changing in the next couple of years, I’m still so grateful for it. It may not be perfect. It may resemble an air-raid shelter. But it has meant that I could grown my own.


In 2014, I grew some sweet peppers, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes as well as come lettuce in pots outside, a few sweetcorn in the border, and some courgettes in a grow bag. I had pots full of annuals such as petunias and begonias (I had finally figured out the difference between annuals and perennials). But best of all, I started to really think about the next steps.


I needed a shed desperately as the old one started to fall in on itself. Most of my money that year went on some garden tools, a new mower, compost, annuals and pots (and of course the bits for the polytunnel). I also bought a Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and grew it in a large pot. I still feel that same sense of joy even now when autumn comes around and I see those sedum heads turning dark pink. I now have three of them in the border and they make a lovely winter feature with the dried heads that I leave on until Spring .


As autumn came around I dug out another border and in mid October, I set about planting daffodils and tulips mixed in with wallflowers and pansies into the new border. Something about those little shoots poking through the cold ground after winter filled my heart with joy, so I knew I wanted lots of spring flowers in my garden.


Late December, I got my new shed. In taking down the old one we discovered a family of frogs that we moved to safety before constructing the new one.




Things were starting to come together.

From Basil Seeds

My First Growing Year

My first little foray into growing my own was in the summer of 2013 when I successfully grew a pot of sweet basil from seed in a terracotta pot in my garden.


At this time, my garden consisted of a large patio and lots of grass. There were no flower borders at all. I essentially had a blank canvas and absolutely no idea what to do with it, let alone any funds to use on it! No tools and a complete sense of overwhelm.

I didn’t know an annual from a perennial. I just had a vague notion that I rather liked the look of hydrangeas, roses and tulips and then, of course, there was this sudden buzz of satisfaction when I picked those first basil leaves to adorn my spag bol.

The obvious starting point for me back then was to grow a few things in pots. I successfully grew spinach, rocket, chives and lettuce in pots and started buying a few plants too. I vividly remember a white-haired lady warning me in the local fruit and veg shop about the riskiness of buying a bougainvillea. I had no idea what she was talking about. My thoughts were: if it’s for sale in this shop local to me at this time of year it must be fine, surely? Well it flowered beautifully in it’s little pot that year and then promptly died. I realised I had A LOT to learn.


By the end of that first summer, I had acquired a potted lily, a little pot of strawberries, a hydrangea and a peppermint. I attempted to grow some sweet peppers but was far too late in the growing season for them to get anywhere. I realised for the first time that we had blackberries growing over the back of the fence in the far corner of the garden. My dad gave me a rhubarb plant which is still going strong now. My daughter Faye and I started to dream up a garden that we would love to own. We drew plans and read books…


We dug out the first border in the garden at the end of August and later planted lots of tulip bulbs. I invested in a little plastic greenhouse to grow on 240 plug pansies and violas I had picked up from the local garden centre. A new hobby had truly begun.


Then the wind blew down my little greenhouse… three times in total and pretty much destroyed most of the plants.

I took down the greenhouse and it’s bent poles. My enthusiasm waned. Winter rolled around. I thought longingly of the tulips I’d planted and wondered if they would grow. I dreamed of all the things I might grow. I thought about having all the gear and no idea… except I didn’t even have all the gear – just a trowl and mini fork, a rotten shed full of old paint cans, a temperamental petrol mower, and whole load of weeds.

Maybe this was all a bit beyond me, I thought…


Notes from the Garden Shed

Thanks for joining me! I’m Gemma and I live in Staffordshire with my husband, ten-year-old daughter, our pet rabbits, Ginny and Luna, and our pet guinea pig, Fred (who it turns out is actually a female but the name has stuck!)

Over the last few years I have been working on changing my end-terrace garden into a home allotment and haven. There is still much to do!

Here I hope to share with you lots of changes, successes, and failures in my gardening journey along with things to do with your produce – an area I’m trying to learn more about all the time.

I will also share where I went wrong so you can avoid making the same mistakes. I make a lot of mistakes so this will be a prevalent part of the blog!

I hope I can encourage anyone to just give it a go no matter who you are, what job you have, how big your garden is or how much you have to spend. There is nothing more gratifying than seeing those first shoots poking through the ground from a simple seed, eating something you have grown from seed or indeed just sitting outside with a cuppa and watching the birds.

I love spending time in the garden. I find it a lovely way to relax. I hope I can translate that onto the page (or screen, more specifically).

Feel free to post comments, follow me on Instagram @notesfromthegardenshed or ask me any questions about growing your own.