Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live with my family in rural Herefordshire. We have nearly four acres of garden and woodland, all managed organically and to Permaculture principles, which we share with Chickens, Cats and assorted wildlife. We also grow a lot of our own food, run courses in all sorts of things and make a lot of compost!

I am a Master Composter and have spent more than a decade as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council.
I'm a self employed Environmental Educator so I run workshops and events where I talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. I also run crafts workshops and Forest School/outdoor play sessions in our wood.

We try to live a more self sufficient lifestyle here, as best we can, while still having a comfortable life and lots of fun.

To learn more about us click on the About Compostwoman tab and remember to click on the photos to make them full size!

Friday 19 July 2013

Not safe to let me go to Garden Shows!

I was very kindly sent some money by MoneySupermarket.com as part of my entry to their home improvement hero  competition.

 They are asking 
Is it possible to change the look, feel and even functionality of a room on a low budget? We’re asking bloggers to provide step-by-step instructions to help educate the nation on how to carry out simple, yet effective home improvements. Whether you have skills in craft, art or DIY, we want to see what you can do with a £50 budget.
 My bright idea was to use the money from this competition to change the look, feel and  functionality of my "garden room" ( ie flower beds) outside my sitting room.

I wanted to improve the view from our sitting room and (nearly finished - yay!) newly refurbished bedroom, so when we looked out of the windows we would see lots of colour and insect life. The view  is not very attractive at the moment, with weeds and a half dug patch of soil on show.  This area used to have Leylandii trees, but they blocked the light and shaded the sitting room so last year we cut them down .

Compostman then dug the stumps out (using the JCB) and we moved a large tree Paeony into the hole, but that is all that has happened so far. It is a bit of a mess and as it is by the road and we look directly out on this area I felt it could do with a makeover.
View from sitting room and bedroom window

I was working with the idea that if I improve the view out of the window, I have also improved the room itself. Inspired by some of the planting I saw at Hampton Court I came up with a design for planting up a new herbaceous perennial flower bed, as well as some improvements to at least one other existing bed. I used some of the money to buy some nice new plants but this is going to be frugal flower planting as I can't afford to spend the sort of money on plants that I saw at Hampton Court!

I marked out where I wanted the new bed to go and then Compostman got to work digging, while I gathered up plants and seeds and took stock to decide what I would need to buy.

At the moment I have quite a good collection of plants I have grown from cuttings or seed. I also always keep an eye open for "past their prime" plants sold at a discount.  I bought three plants late last year (Coreopsis, Solidago and Aster) which would have been £8 each full price, for £1 pound each and re potted them and over wintered them.  These have been earmarked to go in my new flower bed.

I also took advantage of the good deals on plants at various local nurseries with  "4 for £10"  offers which I used to buy some rather nice RHS award of merit Geraniums as well as some Campanulas and Nepetas. I am also a member of various Garden Centre loyalty schemes so was able to get BOGOF deals on some of the plants I wanted to buy (the two Dahlias in particular were a bargain at £4 each)  I also got lucky at a local garden supermarket where they were selling various herbaceous perennials cheap because they looked rather tatty. A bit of tlc and some dead heading and they looked pretty good again and will look even better next year. They cost me £1 each rather than the £5 each full price.

I had no need to buy in soil improver, either! I dug out a lot of wood chip compost to enrich the very hard clay soil in the new bed. Note my lovely new wheelbarrow - thank you, Argos!

I then got cracking and and laid out the plants in their pots on the soil and arranged (and rearranged) them to my design. Then Compostman and I got to work planting them. As it is so hot at the moment we waited until the evenings so as to be a bit cooler.

I also had some summer flowering bulbs which I planted in the bed in drifts of colour. These were reduced at the end of last year so I got them cheap (£2 each pack) and planted them in pots to overwinter in the polytunnel - some of them came in handy today. I also planted some of the Crocosmia bulbs I got free from Spalding Bulbs.

I had a lot of (free) wildlife friendly seeds stored up, which I scattered around the herbaceous perennial planting. Hopefully it is not too late for these to flower if the weather continues fair. If not, I have more seed packets and will be sprinkling them on the bed next year. I have also planted some daffodils and snowdrops in this bed - we have a lot from where we were digging around the pool so I have moved a lot of bulbs across
part way through planting up.

Compostgirl helped me with some of the watering

The colour scheme starts yellow at the left, moving through orange, red, blue, purple, pale lilac and then finally white on the right of the bed, with the backdrop of the honeysuckle and the climbing rose on the fence. It still looks a little sparse; I wish I could afford to buy lots of each plants to re create the dense planting effects I saw at Hampton Court, but I can't so have done what I can, with what I have. I do have lots more cuttings growing, especially Lavender, Geraniums, Nepeta and Daisy though, so will be able to add more plants to this bed as time goes by.

Finished, for now

View through the sitting room window now

I view my garden as a part of my house; an "outside room" if you like, so I want to make it all as attractive as I can. With the money I got from moneysupermarket.com I could have bought a picture to hang on the wall in the sitting room but rather than a frozen image in a frame I have chosen to improve the view of the "living picture", outside. The wildlife love it as well!

I spent a total of £43 on plants for this new bed, both new and bought at a discount.  I have also planted three Pulmonaria  and a couple of extra Lavender plants, which I grew from cuttings for free.


Wildflower Seeds (free)
many different Bulbs (free)
Globe Artichoke x 3 (from Rocket Gardens delivery)
Geranium (split into two plants)
Campanula Globerosa (split into two plants, one used)
Nepeta (split into two plants, one used)
Pulmonaria (several, split from plants in the garden in spring)
White Foxglove
Campanula persicifolia (split into two plants, one used)
Buddlia alba

Most of these plants would be £5 each, to buy full price, some (like the Buddlia and the Philadelphus shrubs) would be £8 - £10 to buy so I think we have managed well to buy so many plants with the money :-)

So, if you want to plant up a frugal-ish herbaceous perennial flower bed, have a look round for discounted plants and give them some tlc, maybe re pot them into a bigger pot as well? If you can, split plants into two or maybe three? Also look out for discount flower seeds which you could sow now and then plant out as plants next year? At this time of year a lot of gardening magazine are giving away free perennials and biennials seeds on the covers, why not buy one and sow the seeds? And look out for BOGOF and multi - buy offers to collect lots of plants together.

Have fun!


  1. You have spent wisely there, a good view is a definite improvement for a room.

    1. I was pleased by the result, I must admit :-) I just have to keep the bloomin hens away, now!

  2. £50 well spent I think. Looks great!

  3. That's really nice. What happens now re the competition ? will you be judged ? will folks come along and take take pictures ? and will you post the results please ?

    1. The moneysupermarket.com team will judge all the entries from bloggers by reading their blog posts and the winner will get £500.

      I could do a lot with that :-) but I was pleased just to get £50 to brighten up the outlook from the house and plant more plants :-)

  4. Just joined by the way, I've been lurking for a long while.
    I'm always complaining that people 'watch' but don't join my blog, so about time I practiced what I preach !!

    1. Nice to see you :-) I just followed your blog as well :-)


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