|The very idea of an allotment conjures up visions of neat rows of bountiful vegetables, wigwam canes heaving with pretty sweet peas, rustic raised beds and a smart potting shed in the corner. Whilst my Auntie’s allotment is exactly like this (complete with neat picket fence, wooden bench and bunting), my own experience of having an allotment is somewhat different.
When the children were small, the opportunity arose to share custody of a plot at a local allotment. Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed my time tending the plot, there were certainly more challenges that I expected. Back breaking couch grass, slug attacks, too little rain (and too little watering), too much rain (leading to ‘bolting’ vegetables and no, this doesn’t mean they upped sticks and headed for a better tended plot) and worst of all...whinging small children. The only positive memories that they could recall from the allotment days were the snacks bought en route as bribery and digging up the potatoes (which is something I suppose)!
Despite all this, there really is nothing quite like growing, picking and eating your own produce and yes, we did manage it! We had success with beans (all sorts), courgettes, potatoes and more. But when I started The Wise House, my poor plot suffered. I had to admit defeat and after 3 years of allotmenteering, I handed back the keys.
In the years since, I have really missed growing my own vegetables, and so decided to have a go at creating a small vegetable patch in our back garden. I signed up for an Urban Constant Garden from Rocket Gardens. The concept is simple; they send you a diverse range of vegetable and herb plants throughout the year and you do the rest. As I find deciding exactly what to grow and when one of the most challenging parts, this suits me perfectly.
Prior to the arrival of the first shipment in May, you are supposed to prepare between 5-8m squared of space. We had gotten as far as to build and prepare two raised beds at the end of the garden; with another raised bed, large bean planter and an old sink all in place but sitting empty.
When the plugs finally arrived in a huge box with a note suggesting that they be put in the ground within 24 hours, I realised I had a serious amount of work to do! It was a baking hot day, which is lovely in theory (and goodness knows I love the sun) but in practice gave an extra layer of sweat and panic to the whole proceedings, as I imagined my beautiful new plugs withering before my eyes.
The small plants arrived cleverly layered in a bed of straw - it was a bit like playing lucky dip at the school fete. Each batch comes with a label, which is useful if you are a relative novice and struggle to tell your beetroot from your kale (more on that later). After about an hour of unpacking, the first job was to soak them in water for which I used a plethora of plastic containers.
Whilst they were having a drink in the shade, I gave the soil another quick turnover and raked it flat (a bit like making up the bed for special guests) followed by sprinkling over some of the enclosed wormcast fertiliser (a bit like showering the bed with rose petals). I then set about filling the other containers, only to frustratingly run out of soil halfway through. This necessitated a quick dash to the local garden centre - I heaved those bags onto that trolley like a contestant from World’s Strongest Man and whisked them home to finish the job.
Time for planting! You are sent a very clear instruction sheet, with useful information on planting depth and distance. First in were the leeks, which I planted to the letter, only to later come across...the leeks. It was in fact the onions that I had planted first, so I hope they don’t respond unkindly to being planted a little deeper than usual. I got my kale and beetroot jumbled up (they look very similiar to my untrained eye) so they are integrating with each other nicely in a neat little line.
Other than that the planting went smoothly; in between school pick-ups, club runarounds, cooking dinner, trying to keep the rabbit away from my new tasty guests. It was actually all rather exciting, as a vegetable patch emerged before my eyes. When my husband arrived home he found me covered in soil and wrestling the bean planter (don’t get saucy now).
This isn’t my children’s bedroom:
This is my children’s (8 and 10 years old) bedroom:
I spend far too much time scrabbling around on this very floor, picking up ‘bits’ and looking for somewhere to put them. My daughter Rose loves to play schools and, as such, one wall is adorned with homemade behaviour charts and small scraps of paper (pupil names) blue tacked to the walls (always interesting to see who has been given the highest accolade of ‘Top Banana’ ).
Rose has a great imagination and enjoys making things; which often involves glue, cellotape and small miscellaneous objects. The thing is, all of this creativity does make me happy (particularly when contrasted with her older brother whose activities are limited to playstation, football, YouTube and enforced reading) BUT this type of play leaves a trail behind it which old Muggins Magee here ends up clearing up.
The final straw came when I trod on an errant drawing pin. There was only one thing for it - a good old fashioned clearout and re-organisation, utilising things that we already have in the house for storage, with the help of a few extra items from The Wise House. Maybe this will prompt a more tidy attitude to bedroom maintenance in future.
So I got to work. Inspired by my own mum’s use of shoe boxes for storage when growing up, I used a combination of rather more stylish boxes. This included those that we had already (find similar at WHSmith, Zara Home, Paperchase) as well as a Storage Box Trio and Compartment Box from The Wise House. I used the Storage Box Trio for things like paper, fabric, pottery creations, stuffing and wool and the Compartment Box for smaller bits like buttons, sequins, sewing accessories, and the like (see below).
I used adhesive wall stickers to attach the smallest box base and lid to the wall, making two shelves for Rose’s hair accessories. Hopefully this will prevent her from losing her hairbrush every 5 minutes! I put most of the other boxes onto the shelves of Rose’s shop (cleverly handmade by my Uncle). She rarely uses it as a shop these days, so I’m pleased to be able to use it for storage.
(Command Adhesive Wall Stickers, Homebase £3)
One of the Souk baskets from The Wise House has now been made into a mobile laundry basket, in the hopes that they will now pop their dirty clothes straight into it, rather than on the floor or down the side of the bed.
I have another smaller basket from Zara Home next to Rose’s bed to hold all current reading material. I moved the wicker chair basket to the chimney breast, and put all of their games into it. I'm a big basket fan as they are so versatile and come in a range of shapes and sizes that can be used in a child’s bedroom for toys, magazines or dressing up clothes.
(Storage Cube and Drawer, Find Similar at the Great Little Trading Company.)
Moving on to the good old Jumbo Storage Bag. These bags are big, robust, cheap, eco-friendly and also attractive to look at. I have put one next to the desk and one behind their bed and transferred all of the children’s artwork into them (after a cull of the pieces with less...huc hum...merit). I moved the desk from the centre of the room, where it was sticking out into the floor space, over to the window. I love this old school desk, bought by my parents when I was young. Next job - remove the stickers that the children have so lovingly placed on it.
I chose one of the Pink Moth Drawstring Bags from The Wise House as a new home for Rose’s tights, which will save the regular tighthunt of a morning. I also find these cotton bags useful for holidays, when you can fill them with underwear or toiletries.
Finally, I used some adhesive wall hooks to hang up some garden wire and used small pegs (Hobbycraft) to attach the behaviour charts. I’m not sure that this is a vast improvement but it does neaten things up a little and I have plenty of spare pegs for attaching the names.
After much sifting and sorting, I finished off with one bag of rubbish and one bag for charity. The whole thing took around 3 hours. It was worth it for the sense of satisfaction and Rose’s reaction - surprise and delight - particularly over the box shelves. She didn’t think I had it in me to come up with something so ‘creative’! It ain't perfect but, afterall, I believe a children's bedroom should be a place of creativity rather than a place for coordinated scattercushions :-).
(Mala Easel, Ikea £16)
Extra Storage Tips
One of our style partners, Maxine Brady (WeLoveHome Blog), has made great use of her Wise House Pompom Baskets as rather swish recycling baskets;
‘In my tiny kitchen, I don't have room for a large (and ugly) recycling bin. Instead I've hung up three pom pom baskets on hooks on the wall, one for paper, one for plastic and one for glass. They have given my kitchen a rustic look while keeping clutter at bay - and what is not to love about pom poms?'
A good friend of mine takes a stash of Jumbo Storage Bags on camping trips. On a particularly wet trip last year, she told me that these bags were her saviour as they kept all of their clothes dry whilst the tent turned into one big puddle. I also keep one in the boot for the regular supply of dirty boots and shoes.
I would love to hear your thoughts; Do you have a similar experience with your children's bedrooms? Would you put some of these storage ideas into practice? All those who comment below will be entered into a Prize Draw to win a Storage Box - a name will be plucked out randomly on Friday 26th February.