Garden basics

I have a medium sized garden which is south facing, although there are conifers in the neighbours garden behind, so through the middle of the day the garden can be in shade.

Sept 2007 2007 september

There is a river behind my neighbour’s fence on the east side and a car park behind the fence on the west side.  The fences are all reed ones, although on the west side there is a three foot wall topped with a three foot reed fence.

There are a few shrubs and small trees planted by previous owners, but all crammed round the perimeter.  I brought a few plants from my old house but have generally moved and divided what was there or bought new stock (or had gifts from friends, neighbours and relatives).  I planted a russet family tree (4 types of russet apple varities grafted onto one tree) against the west wall and another family tree which has unfortunately lost all the grafts above the first one.  I’m training them as fans.  On the bottom fence facing north I’m growing three types of raspberry, which produced some good raspberries last year in spite of the weather and being new plants.

Most of the garden was grass when I moved in (2007).  I have added a winding path in paving slabs with grass in between, and expanded most of the flower beds around the perimeter, added a border in front of the house, and dug four 1.2m square vegetable plots, which were quite productive even in spite of the weather last summer.

June 2008 2008 june

Over last winter I expanded one bed to butt up to the path, and dug a new one which is a bit more than 1.2m long again to butt up to the path.   The soil is a sandy loam which I have been working compost and organic matter into over two winters now so that it holds moisture better and to improve the nutrients, but it is basically very good soil and I’m extremely lucky, having always gardened on clay before.

May 20092009 May

I have between three and five compost bins on the go at any one time.  They have a heavy load of guinea pig waste which is a mixture of hay, recycled wood/paper pulp bedding and poo, and composts quite well, although addition of green matter especially grass clippings would help it along quicker.  I don’t have too much in the way of veg waste from the kitchen, in spite of being vegetarian, as the guinea pigs eat a lot of the skins and waste from the veggies I eat.  The main stuff that gets composted is onion, garlic and leek trimmings (not for guinea pigs), potato peelings if I treat myself to potatoes and don’t eat the skins, and orange and banana peel.  The occasional crushed egg shell, lots of tea bags, and used kitchen paper go in the compost heap too.  More on Composting on the Lenwade Compost website.

June 2010

I’ve been working on reducing the grass area and a border between it and the path, which has a gap to allow access from the veg beds.  Maybe I’ll reduce that gap later.  The rhubarb, gooseberry bushges and strawberries have been planted in the new curved bed and I have netted it against the birds (although at first they would creep under it).  The raspberries look to be cropping heavily this year but my family apple tree has died 😦  The archway moves between the beds in accordance with the crop rotation as it usually has climbing beans and squash trained up it.


By May this year we had already been in drought for two months and I’d been out of water in the water butts for three weeks when this pic was taken.  Unlike last year I worked out that it was better to lavish tap water on the veg than let them take their chance, and I ended up with good crops of most things.  We did have a frost in mid-May though, and I lost some cucumbers and had very poor bean crops in the beds at the base of the picture, trained to go up the archway.  The later runner beans put up on the fence over the dead apple tree did very well though.  This picture is taken at 6.30 a.m. and its interesting to see the sun/shade split.  The SW bed (right hand side near the bushes) increasingly becomes more and more shaded all through the day, and is becoming a challenge to get a good crop of any veg.  Even the celeriac and chard hasn’t done well there this year.  It may have needed more water in the autumn though, since although we had a lot of dew, again we had little rain in September and October.  I was pretty pleased with the veg performance though, and my raspberry crop was exceptional.  I’m learning.

If you compare the right hand far corner of the garden through the photos you’ll notice the spiky plant has gone (succumbed to the snows) and the pyracantha has gone brown.  It died, and the spotted laurel is in dire straits.  With the apple dying last year, I checked with the local gardener if he knew anything about the tree stump in the fruti bed and he said that was an apple which died and was cut down maybe two years before I moved in.  I’m thinking I may have an underlying problem in that corner.  I will investigate this winter when the shrubs have died down, and hope that the witch hazel I planted to replace the spikey plant is still alive.

There will be plenty of updates on work in the garden and planting progress in the Posts – see Grow Your Own.