The Back Garden

My vision for the  garden is to make it full of delicious abundance and as self sufficient in compost and fertility as possible by the end of 2016 – all as frugally as I can with minimum impact on the environment.

My gardening style naturally works with nature rather than against it but I want to include ways to expand the diversity, introducing more wildlife friendly planting and habitats. To increase the range and quantity of fruit, vegetables, herbs and other edible plants I will explore ways of growing in containers – transforming the concrete into multi-layered growing spaces – and extend the growing potential of walls, fences and sides of the shed.

The ladybird sunbathing on a spinach leaf (photograph above) was taken with my iphone 5 on 19th February 2016. Many insects and other creatures overwinter in the polytunnel, it is a great habitat for them.

In the back garden I have a polytunnel and greenhouse, large shed and several growing areas. There are two mature fruit trees, a plum and an apple, several young fruit trees including pear and greengage plus some fruit and nut trees in pots.

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My polytunnel in the winter – with washing! These plants were sown or planted on October 14th 2015

The perennial bed includes strawberries, asparagus, a white currant,some herbs and flowers, perennial alliums and this huge Taunton Deane perennial kale:

kale

This kale plant is just over 3 years old and thinks it is a hedge.

The two main growing areas are in front of and behind the greenhouse. These have become weedy, mainly with self seeded flowers, so I am currently mulching them with cardboard and compost. The flowers are great for attracting bees and other beneficial creatures but are not ideal where I want to grow lots of food as they provide shelter for pests including slugs, so they will be welcomed in other parts of the garden.

This is in front of the greenhouse in 2015 – many of these plants are homegrown potted herbs which will find more permanent homes this year.

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This is the area between the greenhouse and the shed – I have been growing here for a few years, however the soil is quite poor so I need to increase the fertility with a good mulch.

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Here is an example of what happens when a flower becomes a weed – ornamental alliums have taken over the soft fruit area despite my best efforts to control it, so this year I will deep-mulch this bed and hope that, plus weeding any escapees, will eliminate the alliums. There are further soft fruit bushes towards the bottom of the garden and along part of the fence – including thornless blackberry, blackcurrant, gooseberry and tayberries.

The comfrey here is too invasive. It will be removed and replanted where it can grow without taking over fruit bushes.

There is a lot of potential here to make a real change!

Unlike the gardens I have designed professionally, the back garden needs to work as a growing and family space. From a family life point of view, it needs to include:

  • good storage for tools, pots, potions  etc  in the shed which is also used as a gym by the boys, plus an area for DIY/making things. Broken windows also need replacing here.
  • bike storage
  • firewood storage
  • places to sit and eat outside
  • a washing line – I have the longest one possible already but it is too low, needs better support
  • a fire pit and/ or barbecue area, somewhere teenagers can hang out
  • somewhere to hang the hammock
  • a place for me to sit and read in the shade (here I am not only fantasising that the English summers will be hot and sunny enough for me to want to sit in the shade, but also that I will have plenty of time in the day to read!)

For the garden, ideas include –

  • edible crops on the fence and walls
  • areas for growing annual and perennial plants
  • more fruit trees and bushes
  • an effective fruit cage
  • new composting area
  • more effective use of the grey concrete areas to make them more productive and attractive
  • bird feeding station where I can see it from my study window
  • more water butts
  • new wild life habitats in the wilder edges of the garden
  • more wild life benefitting plants
  • a new path alongside the washing line

There are already three ‘dalek’ style compost bins and two pallet ones but these don’t produce enough usable compost yet for the whole garden – one of the plans this year is to make the bottom of the garden a more efficient composting area  and to experiment more with potions using comfrey, nettles etc. I’m experimenting with a Hotbin too  as it can compost food waste which can not be recycled in other ways (we try not to produce food waste but with teenagers it does happen…) The design of the bin means it gets very hot and makes compost faster than regular heaps.

Other resources I already have include:

  • pallets, timber, tools, nails, etc
  • a ton of municipal waste compost, much of which is already on beds
  • well rotted compost ready in two heaps and one’dalek’
  • cardboard
  • polythene, wire, wire mesh
  • potting compost
  • bamboo and locally sourced poles
  • lots of netting
  • comfrey plants
  • some pelleted comfrey, chicken manure, a manure/seaweed mix pellet, rock dust and seaweed
  • many pots and other containers
  • a lot of seeds and young plants I raised last year in pots
  • a well equipped greenhouse and poytunnel for plant raising
  • gardening tools, wheelbarrow, hose, watering can etc

I will need to buy some things of course but hope to transform this space into an abundant paradise as economically as possible!

 

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