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The North Garden

a greenhouse diary



The landscape blanket used to prepare the edible Forest Garden in the South has been re-used to cover the North Garden during the autumn and winter of 2012.


Sheila returns to advise us on how to prepare the ground for the plantings she has outlined on her plan.


Because of the poor quality of the land it is decided to systematically clear the soil of stones, building rubble and mature couch grass - Elymus repens.


Work follows the lines of the landscape blanket which is laid in strips. After each day's work the soil is covered again. Slowly the extent of the soil contamination becomes apparent. We don't know what buildings existed here before we built ours but a lot of their remains have been become buried.


The amount of couch grass that has spread all over the North Garden is unfortunate. Every little fragment of the network of rhizomes must be recovered in order to stop future spreading. A very precise and time-consuming process.


After working all day every day we seem to be winning. Every stone, every brick, every lump of building has to be removed along with every part of the couch grass, which resembles a mass of very fibrous spaghetti.


More than fifty bin liners full of couch grass were dug out by the end of the clearing process.


This sort of work is called the garden gym. I ended up losing around 10 kg in weight by the time I'd finished digging over the entire North Garden.


Recovered soil, free-cycled top soil and material taken from other places on our plot were used to level the cleared area as much as possible. Nitrogen fixing green manure plants were then sown in order to feed the soil and to encourage bees. They should also compete with any weeds that escaped the clearing process.


John from the local UpDown Farm supplied us with several trailer loads of fresh horse manure and straw. The soil needs as much help as it can get. This load should rot down by the end of the year.


After seven weeks of back-breaking labour every inch of the North garden has been carefully processed. Potatoes planted in 2012 to improve the soil are returning along the decking. There are several heaps of stones piled up around the garden that need recycling or removal by skip.


Two of the rubble mountains excavated from the ground. The smaller stones will act as borders and as ballast for the paths and patios.


The green manure plants soon sprout.


The flints are piled separately to the rest of the rubble. They seem to attack spider populations and will be kept for that reason.


The hardcore dug from the soil, that can't be recycled, is carefully loaded into a four yard skip for disposal.


Maturing green manure plants are scythed and buried under additional soils. The roots with their nitrogen fixing nodules will help create habitats for worms and the stems and leaves will rot down and feed the rather poor soil.


A second crop of 'green manure' plants are sown and we begin to mark out the areas for the patios. The inherited blue plastic mains water piping create precise curves.


Two maturing piles of horse manure under landscape blanket together with a huge pile of friable material taken from the bark chipping paths around the estate when they were upgraded. Mixing the two will help bulk up and feed the garden. A heap of plumb slate rescued from a friend in Margate will decorate some of the proposed garden features.


The potatoes in front of the decking are harvested to make way for the hard landscaping work to begin. Mike Skinner will be working on this until it is complete.


The landscape blanket is laid down on top of the planted areas to suppress weeds and to let the green manure plants break down. The paths and patios have been marked out and compressing a solid foundation begins.


Sheila's plan is only slightly modified now that the materials have been chosen.


The weed suppression landscape blanket is re-cycled yet again. The blue mains water pipe will act as additional trunking for cables and is buried under the hard landscaping.


This patio in the N of the garden will eventually be private and secluded - ideal for sun bathing. We decided to use only recycled materials. Mainly bricks dug out of the soil, and free-cycled driveway pavers with flints added as features.


Paths linking the patios are marked out using blue pipe.


We chose Bradstone Woburn Rumbled Brindle pavers in three lengths to build the paths. These same blocks edge the patios.


Once the first edge is laid the rest of the path is is measured from that.


A trip to several of the local nurseries to choose and order the plants as specified on the plantings plan.


This section of the path will join the North Garden to the edible Forest Garden in the South of the plot.


The two terracotta patios will be linked via steps across a water feature that mimics a rill. First an enormous hole has to be dug to accommodate the steel, block and paving structure.


These paths will be extended and will link the North and the South gardens.


Neighbour Simon helps Shiela and Mariette lay out and dig in the various plants delivered from the local nurseries.


Shiela plants a Sorbus tree - 'Joseph Rock'.


Andrew Baldwin has a smith near Sandwich. We didn't realise the scale of the task when we agreed to engage him to make the water feature out of sheet steel.


The water feature relies on being on being set into the ground, level with two patios and absolutely level across it's width. The hole in the garden had to be made ready for taking a considerable weight that mustn't move.


Red oxide priming paint will considerably extend the life of the rill.


The task of lifting 750 kg of steel that is 3.6m long by 1.8m wide over a 3.5m wall and across a 13.0m stretch of garden into a hole with tolerances of less than one cm called for a mighty beast of a crane.


With the driver unsighted, the skills of the 'banksman' is all important.


Hole in one. No messing. Straight in. Not a scratch on the second coat of, green, paint.


It will be months before the steps between the patios are added and a pump is installed to give a gentle waterfall effect. A coat of red oxide primer on the exposed surfaces will keep them from rusting.