Right Said Shed

The last couple of weeks have been less gardening and more sorting out the infrastructure, at least on the few days where it hasn’t been pouring down with rain. The idea of getting the ‘lawn’ area done first kind of went out the window because of various things that need to be fixed first (some of the wall needs repairing, there’s a big stump that has to go and we don’t have a working chainsaw currently, etc…)

Mum changed her mind on where she wants her shed, too- it was going to be on the ‘lawn’ but will now be going in a bare-ish patch around the side of the house. Well, bare apart from one dead tree and various other stumps… sob, more stumps. So I’ve spent my time clearing up that area ready for the shed.

Before…
…and after

The garden paths also needed tackling as they’d basically disappeared under grass. While I like things to look overgrown, everyone was tripping up and slipping on the grass so it needed to go for safety’s sake. Also the drainage channels along the side were utterly overgrown and we don’t want floods (I would like a pond eventually, but I’d also like to choose where it is!)

There’s a path under there somewhere.

The pics above show the before-and-after of prying up about ten bags full of grass and dandelions. Sorry dandelions… you’re welcome elsewhere, promise.

The slabs need re-cementing and I’ve got to replace the old chippings. But at least for now you can SEE the paths.

The trouble is I feel like I’ve been doing more pulling up and destroying things than actually putting anything together- baby steps, I know, but I wanted to actually GROW something. So I’ve planted some wildflower seeds in trays in hope of having some plugs to plant later in the year when there’ll hopefully be a place ready for them.

Primrose and Field Scabious

….I have no idea if these will grow or not. But I wanted to do something garden-y.

One of the other seed packs I bought that I’m going to plant once I find another tray is Dog Violet. I had a thought that they’d be nice under the bushes in the side garden, if that’s going to be a wildish ‘woodland’ area. The seeds arrived yesterday, and that morning I glanced down at the spot I was thinking of eventually planting them out…

Garden: I heard you liked violets.

A tiny splash of purple and a ‘NO WAY!’ from me. There are a couple of dog violets already growing there, presumably having arrived all by themselves! I guess my instinct was right- and hopefully this means any more that I plant will grow well in that area.

The problem is they’re right next to the Suspicious Bluebells. I’ll have to be really careful not to squish the violets if (and it’s looking increasingly likely) that I have to dig up the bluebells. They’re showing buds now so I’ll know soon!

Things learned when planting a Hedge

Okay, so, last time I worked on the long skinny terrace I left off here:

at least it’s clear-ish

So I was about ready to actually plant something in there. And pretty excited to do so since it’d be the first actual planting in this garden, as opposed to digging up. Yeah, I’m probably getting ahead of myself but I wanted to get something in the ground for motivation, and to avoid having to wait til next winter.

I ordered a pack of bare root wildlife hedging from Naturescape, which seemed to have the biggest variety for the price. I’ve ordered stuff from them before and they seemed pretty good! Now it was just a matter of waiting for the parcel to turn up. The weather was getting nicer so–

…well, it was getting nicer.

oh dear.

There was then a lot of swearing.

By some miracle though the snow didn’t last very long and melted in a couple of days. I was worried about how wet the ground would be, but the weather seemed to go from WINTER to SPRING in about five seconds so it dried out pretty fast- I didn’t find the swamp I expected when I uncovered the terrace, but I did find a lot of sneaky rocks and roots I’d missed the first time round. (apparently my grandfather used to say he was really good at ‘growing’ rocks. Now I see why. But then, the house is sitting on an old colliery site…)

I’m totally a professional, guys.

Here’s the area marked out with bbq skewers and string because it was what I had on hand. Just in time for a GIANT BOX to show up on the doorstep! It looks like I got lucky with my timing, too- I was aware I was ordering right at the end of the season for bare root things, and as soon as they were dispatched the hedging packs went out of stock on the website. I guess I got one of the last lots!

A BIG BLURRY BOX
lots of plants

Above is what I got! Everything looks alive/healthy, though I’m no expert. This is enough plants for the almost-exactly-10m terrace with a couple left over… I went with the 5-plants-per-metre advice but we’ll see if that was a good idea or not. It was certainly the only affordable idea- due to bulk pricing, 50 plants actually turned out £20 or so cheaper than 40 would have done…. huh…

Anyway, it’s a mixture of hawthorn, field maple and various other british shrubs/small trees.

How cute is this holly?

I didn’t take any photos while actually planting, as I was too busy getting covered in mud and trying not to let the roots dry out in the wind. (see? I did my research :p) It was an ‘adventure’ though, and I learned a few things in the process…

-It’s really hard to convince yourself that pruning everything by half upon planting is a good idea despite reading otherwise. :( I did it, but arghhhhh poor things….

-Slit planting on a raised terrace is not as easy as they make it look.

-If like me you are a clumsy buh, you will fall off said terrace at least once. My bum has the bruises to prove it.

-You can measure and mark out the planting area as much as you like, it’s still gonna be wonky.

-Rootgrow gets everywhere. EVERYWHERE.

-You can plant 50 shrubs in an afternoon. But your body won’t thank you for it the next day, owww. I may or may not have had help with the last few…

-After planting, you will fret about the poor twigs forever.

ta-daaa

And here’s what it looks like as of yesterday! ….It doesn’t look like much, honestly. But so far everything is showing buds or some other sign of life, so fingers crossed at least some of these will survive and establish.

Admittedly this was a bit of an experiment; I’m not sure how well it’s going to work in the long run. It could be that everything will die, or the opposite will happen and I won’t be able to keep it trimmed enough on the path side to not be a nuisance. But it’ll be interesting finding out! I really hope it does work, though, because if it does in a few years time it’ll be really good for the birds and insects. And it’ll help to make up for the bushes that’ve had to be removed because of dad’s garage (ugh).

Honestly I’m already wondering if more hedging along the boundary fences will be possible, but that’s a job for the distant future.

So much digging

Okay so…. confession, I’m basically a soft nerdy marshmallow shaped person. Part of the appeal of this garden project is, y’know, getting some exercise.

And I’ve definitely been doing that. If I wanted to be able to order hedging by the end of March, I’d have to seriously get going.

As I mentioned in the previous post, this is what I started with in February:

After a couple of afternoons attacking it with a rake and shovel, I managed to get it down to this.

The problem was, the whole area was solid roots and stumps! It looks like there had been something of a hedge along here already. There was one existing bush (pieris? I think), the stump of which you can just see in the first photo. But as I cleared the grass away I found lots of other buried stumps that had to be dug out, some of which were bigger than my head. So it didn’t go as quickly as I’d hoped!

About 1/3 of the dug out clumps. Oof.

But once that was done, I was ready to start filling in all the resulting holes and– oh wait. This is Wales. And Mother Nature had some words to say about that.

Oh.

….The Beast From The East put a stop to any garden work for a few days. On the plus side, the snow and ice probably helped to kill off any remaining grass in there! At least I hope so.

The snow was pretty at least! And it did hide some of the junk piled around the garden for a while.

Luckily the snow didn’t last too long, so I was able to tidy up the terrace a bit and even it out by using some of the soil from the furthest tier where the garage is going to be. (MORE DIGGING! And a big thank you to my mother for helping rake it in while I was wrestling a very rickety wheelbarrow full of topsoil).

So here’s where we are as of yesterday! I think it’s about ready to plant. Once the conifer is out of the way anyway. (You might’ve noticed them gradually disappearing. They’d grown through their planter and were going to become a big problem, so are being relocated. Mum hates them, dad likes them, I’m not really a fan… so they’re getting repotted and moved elsewhere as a compromise. I’m not sure if they’ll survive but we’ll see.)

I haven’t bothered clearing off the moss from the edging; can’t really change the concrete blocks, and I think the moss looks better than cleaned blocks would. As well as being a little habitat for insects.

The area is now covered up with black plastic to try and prevent weeds, ready for when I get the hedge plants! And I’m going to make another cup of tea as I’m still sore from all the digging…

Gardening: level 1 newb

Umm, hello! I guess this is a thing, then.

I never thought a gardening blog was something I’d ever do- the ‘garden’ at the current family home is a concrete car park except for a smallish raised bed that, until the middle of last year, was mostly just used to pile firewood on.

So this is all a little weird to me. My family and I are currently in the process of moving to a house with a large garden- by my standards anyway- and I’ve sort of taken responsibility for it. I’m starting this blog to help motivate myself and… well, given my utter lack of experience with this stuff? There are probably going to be some hilarious mistakes, tears and tantrums along the way here.

I’m both excited and intimidated to get going! Excited because I’ve always wanted a wildlife garden full of bee- and bird-friendly plants, and maybe a pond. Last year I tried to make something of that little raised bed and caught the gardening bug pretty badly, even though I didn’t really do that much.

Intimidated because this is a really huge project to take on and honesty I haven’t a clue what I’m doing. The garden hasn’t really been maintained for a long time, and it’s going to need a lot of work and TLC. Here’s the state it’s in right now….

Overgrown and a bit sad. Unfortunately the top level is shortly going to disappear under a garage (ugh) but the rest is still going to be an undertaking! (There’s also the side area and front patio to eventually sort out, not pictured here.)

I’m going to be taking it one terrace section at a time, clearing and replanting with native plants (where possible) as time, weather and budget permits. I’ve got no idea if that’s the right way of doing it, but it’s the plan for now. It’s not going to be the most glamorous or perfect garden- the existing layout will be staying and I’ll be reusing/recycling as much as I can- I’m well aware that my ‘after’ is going to look a lot like a serious gardener’s ‘before.’ That’s okay, though. I’m much more interested in planting for wildlife than perfect flower beds!

Hopefully it’ll work out, but either way I’ll be posting my adventures in bumbling and googling my way through growing things here. I’ll also be posting smaller updates on Instagram!