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Green fields, what now?


By Peter

Hampshire, United Kingdom Gb

With my landlords permission, I am starting my first real gardening adventure with a 8 x 1 metre border and have just started to remove the grass. It began with a bang as my shiny new spade hit the layer of flint beneath the grass. This is a slightly open ended question regarding how best to prepare the border for planting. I'd like low plants (heathers and alpines) nearer the house with taller ones (small conifers inspired by bluespruce) at the far end. I've posted a picture of the strip so any other suggestions and ideas are welcome.




Update: Having spent the day clearing the strip I think I'd like to grow fruit and veg I can harvest. I've heard this means I'll need manure, rather than compost?

5 May, 2007


That looks suspiciously like the garden of a new build. Unfortunately that's bad news, as what you probably have is a mixture of bad soil and rubble, compacted by the coming and going of heavy material, with a thin layer of topsoil if you're very lucky.

The solution, unfortunately, is hard work: dig down at least a foot, get rid of any large stones you find, introduce what you need to improve the soil (compost, maybe some sand or gravel) so that you end up with something fertile and well aerated.

This is work that worms and roots do in nature, but probably not at a speed acceptable to you!

Manure vs compost: I'm far from an expert on this, but at the end of the day all you want is something containing nutrients (nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous and other elements). Any plant will be OK in any rotted organic matter. Everything else is just fine tuning.

7 May, 2007


Totally agree with ukslim, but I would go for well rotted horse shit or any other type of animal, also a MUST is to start your own compost bin, put in anything that will rot, basically, My bible is Successful Organic Gardening by Geoff Hamilton, was published by Dorling Kindersley in 1987. It is one of those books that you can dip into, & land up spending an afternoon reading!
Good luck.

7 May, 2007


Ugh, when I said "heavy material", I meant "heavy machinery".

8 May, 2007


Thanks, you were dead on spotting it as a new build, and with the amount of rubble I'd unearth. I dug to about 18 inches and have unearthed a few boxes of brick, flint and concrete.

8 May, 2007


If you still fancy alpines, you might be able to use some of that rubble as rockery material, although it sounds like most of it's not attractive.

8 May, 2007


If you get most of the rubble etc out and dig in some well-rotted manure - then bung some potatoes in, they will help break up and condition the soil, you may get a harvest - but they'll probably be odd shapes until the soil improves. Failing that fill it with a row of runner or climbing french beans, they will also help the soil and fix some nitrogen in there for your next crop. Also don't leave it idle over winter, sow a 'green manure' such as field beans, winter tares or grazing rye - this is sown over the whole bed in sept/oct then allowed to grow over winter, the roots will help break up the ground and then in the spring, before any of it flowers you chop it up a bit with a sharp spade and then dig it in. It will provide plenty of goodness for your future crops and stop weeds colonising your patch over winter!

8 May, 2007


You could try raised beds - that way you wont actually be using the rubbish soil - thats what I've done as my house is only 14 years old and the amount of bricks and bags of sand (yes actually bags!) you would not believe - I've submitted a photo of my raised beds with I'm growing veggies in this year.

9 May, 2007


What a great challenge that blank canvass is! Sure you can expect plenty of hard work but the satisfaction you'll get from it all.Take it slowly though, gardens evolve over a long time frame & be prepared for the mistakes you'll make, it's all part of the learning process. There's so much you could do in your garden; I guess you have to think out what you really want from it.Functional, low maintainence, eye catching? I would give it some shape first of all to detract from the flat square that you have, so a bit more turf to come up I think; give it some curves! Your alpines would look good in a raised situation (rockery or such) 'cause they don't naturally grow on flat ground do they, so use some of that spoil that needs digging up. Raised beds for your veg are a great idea & don't forget some colour. I'm sure you will soon be bitten by the gardening bug like the rest of us & that lawn will get smaller & smaller! Remember, take your time & get to know your garden. Enjoy!

13 May, 2007

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