Goaded into action by a post from ilegirl, I thought I’d start a strand about my garden.

Some History.
In 1964 my parents and I moved into this house, it was at the time a council house (social housing) and the garden was the standard sized plot, as wide as the house (30 feet) and about 30 feet long. It faces south, with a hedge of Lawson Cypress on the southern boundary casting shade over much of the plot in the short days of the year, the soil is quite stony and slightly alkaline.

The house is at the eastern end of a line of semi-detached properties at the bottom of a cul-de-sac. The properties to our north-east are a block of flats (apartments). In 1964 they were occupied by pensioners, and the architects who drew up the plans for the estate had provided a large plot of land for the pensioners to garden, which ran adjacent to the eastern boundary of our garden. Unfortunately for the planners, the pensioners weren’t interested in working on such a large plot and the first year saw a fine crop of weeds and grasses as high as an elephants eye. Now I am not sure if the council suggested it or my father, but in the winter they moved the fence and we took over that section of the pensioners’ plot that abutted our existing garden, which extended our plot to 30′ x 75′ and gave us two Common Lime trees at the end of the plot. We had moved from my Grandmother’s house in Wraysbury, which had a huge garden, so we all felt more comfortable with this arrangement. It also meant that a small boy had enough room to charge around in, two trees to climb and fall out of, and space to dig trenches resembling the Somme to play those essential war-games of youth. Meanwhile there was sufficient room for my parents to have some big flowerbeds and a vegetable plot (which got extended during the recession of the 1970’s when due to the oil crisis, the three-day week and rampant inflation, things got tight).

In 1994 after living here for 30 years, my parents bought the house under “The Right to Buy” a controversial piece of legislation introduced by Margaret Thatcher, but responsible for triggering what became a national obsession in owning property, which you can argue has lead to the current problem of an under-supply of social housing and an unsustainable rise in House Prices that seems about to fall around our ears. Anyway we bought the house at a 60% discount and the extra plot came with us.

As my father grew older I took on more of the gardening labour. The vegetable plot shrank until after several years of only growing some under-performing runner beans, the veggies were abandoned completely. A small 6′ x 6′ greenhouse was erected, and a pond, which dad had always desired had been constructed shortly before he died at the end of 1995.

As I took over the maintenance of the garden I changed the method of management. Traditionally in an English Garden, and especially one with a vegetable plot, you would dig it over during the Autumn, and incorporate as much well rotted organic material as possible – compost, manure etc. However on our stony soil the winter rain would was the soil particles down and you’d end up with a layer of stones on the surface, which we would dutifully rake off and pile up in a hidden corner of the garden. Sometime in the 1980’s I was inspired by the late Geoff Hamilton on the TV programme “Gardener’s World” to pursue a no-dig system. I reduced the size of the beds so that I wouldn’t need to walk on them, then, ironically, I dug them over really well, using a “double-dig” system where you dig to twice the normal depth, and incorporated the organic material as deep as possible. This was necessary to (a) break up any “hard pans” preventing good drainage and (b) because I wasn’t going to dig in future I had one chance left to improve the deep soil. In subsequent years I simply piled the compost/manure/leafmould onto the top of the beds and just hoed the top few inches. The hoeing and worm action did the rest. The only deep digging would occur if I needed a big hole for a new shrub. Eventually the soil levels became so elevated that I had to build raised beds to contain the soil. Now if you look at the beds, you will not guess what the natural condition of the soil is, but that’s 44 years worth of cultivation for you.

We still have a lawn that was my Father’s pride and joy, but I nibbled away at that as the southern end was too shaded by the Lawson Cypresses, so I replaced a section with gravel bounded by sleepers, into which I now cycle various potted plants depending on the season. Just finishing are the Hellebores, soon to be replaced by Hostas (The gravel helps keep slugs away), and a selection of small spring-flowering bulbs, mainly blue to presage the blue skies of summer.

That’s enough words, here are some pictures of the plot taken in the last month, together with a few choice shots from earlier summers.


Click on the slideshow to see the pictures full size at Picasaweb.

~ by @mmonyte on April 19, 2008.

7 Responses to “Horticulture”

  1. I’m stoked you finally put these great photos up to share, and provided context in the post. Kudos!

  2. Well it’s too bloody cold to do any gardening at the moment, so all I can do is sit here and blog. And drink. hic. 🙂 And download The pre-fab four.

  3. Cold? Geez! We’re deep into spring! Today was a little chilly, though – only in the 70’s. Perfect weather for weeding and stacking wood.

  4. We have been experiencing a cold easterly wind which has brought not just cold (48 F) but also unwelcome smells from the European mainland

  5. Before I clicked the link I jokingly wondered Is it from France?, knowing full well the good-natured(?) rivalry between the English and French. The confirmation that this was in fact so amused me.

    Even more amusing was the newrag’s solicitation Have you smelt it? We want your comments!

  6. Actually can’t say I noticed “Le Grande Stink” here, living as I do on the edge of the countryside, we often get plenty of local agricultural smells.

  7. […] the Spring, inspired by the beautiful pictures of @mmonyte’s garden, I had spent many hours weeding, digging and planting, and with some faithfulness had watered my […]

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