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Managing two hectares of wilderness


We’ve been struggling for six years to carve a decent garden out of two hectares of heavy clay soil. We are lucky to have lots of water with a series of wells and springs, a pond, and a river, so even in dry weather we are never short of water.
The vegetable garden is manageable and we are trying increasingly to work it in the deep mulch fashion…. lots of organic matter on the surface and planting from modules into this, with additional compost. We can get a sustainable compost made from forest products in the locality, so no problems using unsustainable peat.
Keeping flower gardens weeded is the real problem as we have loads of horsetail, docks, Japanese knotweed etc. We are trying to plant in thick clumps and although the foxgloves have established, lots of other perennials have been lost. We are currently planting along the pond and river side by cutting down all the reeds and establishing clumps of canna, day lilies, hardy geraniums, ligularias etc. Some have established, but some have perished.
We thought it would be a milder climate here, but last winter we had minus 21C for a few days, and even the fig trees have been cut right back; lots of other plants lost completely.
We have established some sub tropical plants in a conservatory made out of ruined old buildings built into the hillside with solid stone walls. We’ve covered this with polycarbonate panels and found doors and windows for free at the local tip. We manage to get a really good crop of edible passion fruit here, but the guavas died back last winter and we lost the majority of the tender hibiscus. We have some pomegranates and citrus which we hope might fruit one day, as well as feijoas which are doing well.
The main dilemma is when to cut the weeds and grass as in spring lots of wild flowers, including orchids, come through, and we hate to cut them down. then when you start cutting in June or July, there are so many snakes which can be cut to pieces by the large mower! Last year I even killed some levrets (young hares) in the long grass by standing on them accidentally in the long grass.
One huge area amongst the trees has seeded with salsify, which produces a whole sea of purple flowers in the morning at this time of year; we are leaving them in the hope that they will seed again all around the plot. We can harvest both the flower buds which are very tasty and of course the roots in the winter as ordinary salsify.
We sowed a mass of phacelia a couple of years ago, which makes a wonderful bee and insect plant, and this is still coming up all over the place.
Our garden is wonderful, but getting the balance between just leaving things to go wild and managing and cultivating it is very difficult and frustrating.

More blog posts by bertiefox

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a lovely place to have. lucky you.

17 May, 2009


You are doing a fantastic job...and seem to be achieving that delicate balance well.What a mammoth task with the weed " giants " ! Horsetail is notoriously difficult to get rid of,and knotweed....say no more ! Well done so far !

17 May, 2009


I've just planted salsify - I should have asked you for some seed!

17 May, 2009


Oh, boy. I couldn't cope with that lot. No wonder you have problems. Still, I'm sure you'll get there in the end. It looks lovely. :o)

17 May, 2009


welcome to of luck with your continuing efforts.

18 May, 2009


looks like a labour of love and what you have achieved is fantastic

18 May, 2009


It all looks very beautiful:-)

11 Oct, 2009

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