Thursday, 3 July 2014

Operation Garden Meadow - Part 1

At home I don't have a garden, I just have a long concrete balcony and a small square concrete yard. I grow some plants in pots, but not too many, and over the years I've sort of lost interest. However, since I've been visiting almost daily at Mums, sorry I mean Marks Mansion and its grounds, for the last few months, my interest has started to peek again.
Whilst in my bird hide at the bottom of the 'estate' my imagination started to grow. The whole area was covered over by membrane and had become a bit of a tipping ground. It measures roughly 18 ft long by 9 ft wide, give or take a few inches.
 I could make the area so much better, thought I. After some carefully worded conversations with the Lady of the Manor, it looks as it my dream may come true. Mum's agreed to give me half the grounds at the bottom of the garden. The other half she will plant up as a semi-shade garden with her own plants and planting design.
I have made a few rough sketches of how I want my half to look, and the next time I do an Operation Garden Meadow blog post, I'll include my rough sketch and a proper scaled drawing. But for now, you'll have to make do with my photos and words.......
This is just after I started the clear up. A lot of lopped and pruned branches had been left in a pile. The whole area is covered in membrane held down against the wind by a few randomly placed slabs. The two chairs on the left are starting to rot. There's a compost bin in the far left corner with a huge buddlia 'tree' growing behind it. On the fence there is ivy and a very old clematis Montana. Not shown in my photo is a very established forsythia and nettle patch behind the chairs. On the top right of the photo is an old tree, variety unknown at the moment, which has three trunks. To the right of that there is the start of Mum's little rockery and the raised beds which include a step up to the rest of Mum's 'estate'. My half of the garden starts where the two white refuse bags are, all the way to the fence. Behind the chairs, nettles and forsythia is a chain link fence which borders Mum's garden from the horse field behind it.
After the main clear up - chopping up the pile of pruned branches. I took up four garden waste bags plus added lots of greenery and some small chopped up twigs to the compost bin. Have also started a leaf litter bin, which is a third full already.

The compost bin, a compost soil holder and the leaf litter bin are now all in situ on the left hand side. Looking better already.
Four bags of woody garden waste (and my little hide behind them). You can also see the step down in to this part of the estate on the left hand side.

Compost bin, soil holder and leaf litter net bin.
The two black trays are what Mum used to use to stand gro-bags in. I'm going to sink the trays in to the ground, fill them up with gravel and make two little paths for access to the compost and leaf litter bins.
The log pile as it as at the moment. I'm going to restack the logs with some old curved terracotta tiles underneath and hopefully attract some slow worms.

I had to have a nosey at what the soil is like under the membrane......
and its not bad at all !!
The unknown three trunk tree got a hard prune today. I like the shape of it so will plant a native honeysuckle at the base and let it grow up the trunks. The clematis to the left, also got a hard prune. I like clematis Montana so have no plans to remove it. The buddlia 'tree' also got a hard prune, but I've kept as much green as possible as there are buds coming through. The ivy on the fence I'm going to leave. Some of it is already almost half way up and I'm a big fan of ivy.
This morning I finished positioning all the un-used slabs that we could find. The area to the right of the slabs is my new garden ! You can see from the photo that at about 10am this area is in dappled shade.
Another view of how the path will look. I'm going to take a few inches of soil up al along the length of the path so the slabs lay snug to the ground. In between each slab will go pebbles and gravel, with maybe an aubrieta or two to soften the edges.
Mum had been saving these to build an insect after collecting a few other bits from around the garden......
I made it for her. The bottom bit is for our little toad. I found him in the compost bin again this morning.
And what am I going to grow in my own little part of the Marks Mansion estate ?
 A small garden meadow.
It's too late to start planting now, and as the soil is so good I don't need to dig it over yet or even plant green manure to try to replenish any nutrients. I'm going to leave the membrane down over autumn and winter, plant my honeysuckle when I eventually source a native one I like and can afford, start looking for any native seeds like honesty and digitalis and concentrate on the permanent structure of the garden. This includes setting the path in the soil, filling the gaps with pebbles and creating some sort of border (maybe with up turned bricks). Also making a seating patio area, where I can put up my hide or where we can add a couple of chairs. We also need to create a high-ish border by the chain link fence so we don't lose any soil in to the horses field, but which will contain the robust forsythia and the nettle patch - we already have a plan in mind.
Then in April 2015 I can plant my meadow.

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