Posted: 25/04/2013 at 21:01
Blueboots, you are going to have so much fun! We were in the same position ten years ago - moved to a big (2 acre) garden for the first time and learned from scratch. Ours is also on steep hill, very rocky soil (can't dig holes with anything except a pick-axe or mattock) and north facing.
I'd agree with everything that everyone else has said - especially the bit about this being a long term project. A couple of things I'd add.
First, we got fixed in our heads that each year we would 'develop' one bit of the garden (that is, turn it from wasteland to garden!); 'improve' another bit (usually the bit we'd 'developed' the previous year) and 'maintain' the rest (which is a big enough task on its own, and it is just depressing if it gets out of hand. Dividing it up like this kept us sane and meant we could feel happier about having messy bits because we knew that we'd do it next year.... or the year after....
Second, spend what it takes to get the right tools for the job. Don't try to do big jobs with rubbish equipment, you will just get frustrated and miserable. Much better to buy one thing right than have lots of rubbish tools.
Third, I learned a lot from hearing Alan Titchmarsh saying that the most valuable tool a gardener has it 'the blind eye'! There are always going to be bits of your garden that don't look how you want them....learn to turn a blind eye to them and focus on the bits you are really proud of!!!
We gone from being complete novices to absolute fanatics madly in love with our garden. I'm jealous of you - enjoy the journey!