T.The moment I knew our house purchase was final, I ransacked my mother’s garden for cuttings last April. It was still early in the season, but I couldn’t stand it, so I composted the twigs with new shoots of Viburnum, Potentilla, Black Elder and Budreya. I’ve been gardening professionally for over ten years, managing and maintaining gardens from lush urban pockets to modest country estates, but this is my first garden.
80 square meters of chalky, well-drained Hampshire soil (two-thirds of which is grass) in the neighboring village of North Wessex Downs is a small, narrow rectangle. It faces north, yet is exposed, so the sun bakes in between the equinoxes surprisingly, and to our delight there is relatively little existing structure. Barbecues – Potted benches until forced home, but otherwise a blank canvas for gardening.
There is a strong argument against spending a year observing a new garden before making any major adjustments. My objection is that gardens are for people. Is doing,anytime. So, in hopes of encouraging those who, like me, are striving towards sustainable and affordable gardening, here’s what I’ve done so far and the tasks I plan to do in the coming months. I have.
grow an existing plant
First, I looked up what’s already here. It’s amazing how many plants can exist within a small, sparse looking area. I counted about 30 varieties, including hellebore, columbine, and solomon’s seal, and all weeds had attractive self-seeders. Gorgeous feverfew and purple violet next to dandelions and bindweed.
Desirable or not, your existing plants will tell you a lot about your garden, from soil type to light distribution, and you can quickly multiply herbaceous perennials as a ground cover by dividing those that thrive. Of what I have allotted for the summer, I am currently dividing and repotting Pulmonaria, Marjoram and Cranesbill Geranium to create fat new plants. Best to do this.
Added compost bin and water vat
If, like me, you’re going to be ruthless about what you don’t want and can’t convince your friends and family to bring the fancy fuchsias and extra hydrangea back home, a compost bin is essential. Municipal recycling centers make compost from green waste, but why not make it yourself? Meanwhile, GetComposting has partnered with local governments to offer the best composters for small gardens like ours. increase. GetComposting also offers affordable water absorption tanks connected to downpipes to collect rainwater for upcoming heatwaves.
make a cold frame
The garden master plan loosely held in my head does not currently include a greenhouse. There really isn’t much space. But a cold environment that can grow hardy annuals and perennials and protect cuttings from frost is important.
I made a makeshift frame out of rigid perspex (the shop dismantled the Covid-safe screens so there is surplus – ask around). I made a little hot box for this year’s sowing by sticking a sheet and placing this against a sunny wall – echinacea, salvia, sweet pea, annual bishop’s flower, Ami BisnagaThe cost of a packet of seeds can add up quickly, so I sow what I collect and store-bought seeds: campion and sea holly from friends; purple mange and spines from a nearby hedge; high teasel.
Winter, when the plant is dormant, is the season for hardwood cuttings. Cut pencil-thick (and lengthy) stems from shrubs such as dogwood, blackcurrant, weigella, and jasmine, trimming them below the leaf nodes, and pot them in loamy compost or stick them straight into the ground. If you are lucky, new leaves will appear in spring. And cutting material is everywhere: a clever cut of syringa in a parking lot could prove invaluable in the future.
review the lawn
We keep the middle part of the lawn for our young children – I’m not a monster! It strengthened my determination to reduce grass significantly.
But change must happen gradually. Bare land is susceptible to nutrient loss, topsoil erosion, and overheating in midsummer, which reduces microbial activity. So I removed only the ones that could be planted immediately and created two borders. Before doing so, though, I enriched the exposed soil with organic top mulch. In our case, local smallholders provided large quantities of well-rotted horse manure in exchange for the occasional brush of the resident Shetland ponies. handle.
Plant a tree
Fall and winter is the season to order and plant bare-root trees and shrubs (usually cheaper than potted plants). Look for local fruit varieties that are better suited to your plot and reduce shipping costs. Choosing from so many great national-scale tree options (hawthorn, ham rancher, redbud, cherry, to name a few) was no easy task, but almonds – sweet plum ‘Sultane’ – a box of prerequisites such as spring flowers for pollinators, multiple stems on tall trunks, fruitful fruit (nuts), climate suitability, chalky (alkaline) soil preference, etc. is checked. Fair game to every corner of the fence, so the inevitable climbers (Virginia Creeper, guinea pig climbingwinter clematis), and plans to train with a handful of apples and pears as a horizontal espalier.
I also plant hazel. Intentionally or not, one of the most original plantings I’ve ever encountered was a hazel plant next to a vegetable patch. A renewable source of pea sticks with easy access to sweet peas and vine beans. I chose the ‘Cosford’ (decorative shell) and ‘Purpurea’ (attractive foliage) cultivars because two plants make cross-pollination easier.