One of the first things that I noticed when I moved to Reading for uni, was the lack of green spaces. Growing up, a field, canal or lake had never been far from my doorstep. And that was definitely something that I took for granted. For the three years that I lived in Reading, it felt like everywhere I turned there was another building and the only sign of grass nearby was in the tiny little patch we had in our back garden. I would sit by my window in my bedroom, looking out across that tiny little garden that we shared with our neighbours, wishing that our landlords would allow us to do something with it. Anything. Just to make it look like a bit more like a garden than the dumping ground it actually resembled.
But, despite our pleas we were turned down and so, I then vowed to always make the most of any green space that I was able to call my own in the future. I now live in an annex next to my grandparents and I share a garden with them. A garden that they diligently maintain and that I am incredibly lucky to be able to enjoy. Watching them take care of each zone of their garden has really shown me what it is like to create, and maintain, a green space of your own so I thought I would share a few of my tips on how to build yourself a rural garden. Wherever you live. Because, even though I live in the countryside now, I think that the same tips apply to those living in a city. I firmly believe that as long as you’ve got access to a little bit of land, you can create yourself a rural space because my housemates and I would have done it at uni, in the heart of Reading, if we had been allowed to.
Don't underestimate the importance of greenery in a garden
The main thing that I missed in Reading was the lack of greenery. On every drive from Reading to the little town that I call home, just outside of Milton Keynes, I would mark how close I was to home by how green my surroundings were. I knew that I was getting close to home because it would get greener and greener. So that is why I now wholeheartedly believe that if you’re trying to capture a bit of the countryside in your back garden then you need to start with a little bit of greenery. Whether that is in the form of grass or shrubbery is up to you, and the amount of space you have, but the greenery is not something that you can compromise on.
Add some herbs to make your garden feel practical
My dad’s parents have always had a small allotment patch in their garden, and now my mum’s parents have one too. Growing up I was always amazed at the way that my grandparents would pull out a carrot from the ground early in the day and then place it on my plate in the evening. And to be perfectly honest, I still find it amazing. We live in a world where we are so used to picking food up from the shops that we don’t even consider where it has come from, or how many chemicals are sprayed on them. I know that a majority of the veg on my plate each evening is safe simply because it has come straight from our garden. If you don’t have the space to have an entire allotment patch, you could settle for growing your own herbs. You only need a few small pots that can easily sit on a windowsill or a small table but I can guarantee that that handful of herbs or bunch of carrots will revolutionise your meal times.
Create a space that you can relax in
There’s no point having a beautiful garden if you never enjoy it. If your garden is quite small, opt for furniture that can be folded away, but no matter what size it is, some form of outdoor seating is required to enable you to make the most out of your green space. Whether that is a table and chairs or some floor cushions, having somewhere to sit and enjoy your garden is the best way to ensure that you make the most of your rural space.
Don’t clutter your garden with unnecessary furniture
In the same breath, don’t go crazy and buy more than you can store comfortably. If you do it may end up looking more like my uni garden than a rural one that you want to spend any time in. If you don't have the space to store loads of furniture, settle for a picnic blanket that you can throw down on the floor as and when you want to sit outside.
Encourage animals in
Encouraging wild animals into the garden is something that my grandparents have always done, and that they have always encouraged me to do too. To the point that, now, when my grandparents go away I’m not only left with a list of things to look after in the house, but I’m also given instructions on how to feed the wild birds. We have bird houses, tables and baths dotted around the garden, but we also sprinkle an array of feed across the garden each morning. We now have a mix of robins, blue-tits, crows, pigeons and a number of birds that I wouldn’t even be able to name dropping into our garden each day for their breakfast feast. We also have bats, a bunch of hedgehogs and even a resident fox that makes its way across the garden, through the wildflower patch, and on its merry way in the evenings. And, let’s be honest, while the grass and the allotments help to make this a rural garden, it’s the animals that really give it its life.
This post is in collaboration with Calor Gas, who are as dedicated as I am about encouraging people to enjoy living in the countryside.
Calor want to make living off the mains gas grid as easy as possible, which is why they are encouraging people to switch to LPG to benefit from having gas in the home. They will install the gas connection for you and even offer free of charge installations! LPG is a cleaner and more sustainable fuel than many alternatives, and the range of storage solutions offered by Calor now means that you could even have your gas tank buried underground (meaning that your garden space won’t be compromised by a big storage container). Calor also now offer BioLPG, an even greener form of LPG. Making the switch to Calor means that you’ll be able to enjoy your rural garden by hiding your fuel out of sight, whilst also knowing that you’re doing your bit for the environment too.
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