Helen's Garden Renovation Project

Friday 26 March 2010

Viburnum RIP

Filed under: Progress — Helen @ 3:50 pm

The weather has been unsettled, but I have been lucky and have been able to do three sessions of digging this week. I have dug out all the viburnum roots. Or most of them. Some of the viburnum was growing on top of the soakaway so I had to be careful not to dig too deep. No pictures today because the garden doesn’t look very different. I am now digging a trench behind the greenhouse so I can borrow the soil for the main part of the garden. When I have finished I will put some more turf in the bottom of the trench and put some bits of path on top, which will get them out of the way for the time being.

I have had a great deal of attention from robins and blackbirds. In fact, I’ve seen two robins in my garden at once. One of them was eating worms and the other one was standing there trying to look as if it wasn’t interested in worms. The female blackbird has got through a lot of worms and I hope it likes the cockchafer larvae I left out for it. The great tits are doing the most tweeting but I don’t know what’s fuelling the sound energy because I haven’t seen them hanging around waiting for me to unearth worms for them.

The newts are awake – I saw one in my pond yesterday. I have had no frogspawn but then I didn’t expect any. When I get my new shallow pond, perhaps the frogs will think it is a safe place to bring up their children.

I haven’t seen any cats in my garden since I installed the Big Cheese cat scarer. I have only had one lot of cat mess to clear up in that time, and that was in a place that was not protected. I am hopeful.


Friday 19 March 2010

Two tarpaulins

Filed under: Progress — Helen @ 2:58 pm

I took this week off work; that is, the day job. Once again, I chose wisely. Apart from today, the weather was perfect – dry, sunny, not too hot, not too windy. I have managed to put in about 1.5 to 2 hours a day. Even today I managed to do about an hour’s worth of digging before the rain got going properly.

I saw my first butterfly on 16 March, but it wasn’t a brimstone. It was orange or brown. It was too far away and was fluttering away too quickly for me to say anything more about it.

The bad news is that there isn’t much to see in the way of progress. I have been digging up some of the turf from the area where the pond will be, and burying it in deep holes. You can see some of this work at the base of the picture. I have also been digging up the viburnum roots. The roots are not, in my opinion, very high quality. It’s easy to put a spade through most of them. However, they make up for their lack of solidity by quantity. The viburnum has put out suckers in an area way beyond the original planting site. I am nowhere near finished digging it up.

Two tarpaulins now in use

Two tarpaulins now in use

I am also puzzled about how the garden slopes. I had always throught that the garden sloped down towards the end because I get flooding there when it rains a lot. However, I am now not so sure. I think that when the first pond was built, at the end of the garden on the left, the landscapers may have lowered the level of the ground to make the area flat. When I have finished digging up the viburnum and moving everything off to the right hand side of the garden, I will see if I can work out what the gradient of the garden really is, and whether it is feasible for me to have a perfectly flat lawn.

I have bought a cat scarer from Amazon. It is called ‘The Big Cheese’. It works by detecting infra-red movement and emitting a high-pitched tone that only animals, children and young people can hear. I can’t hear it because I am too old, but I tested it on a 15- and a 16-year-old and they could both hear it. They said it was a very annoying sound, but they thought that people wouldn’t be able to hear it in my garden unless they were outdoors.

Actually I have bought two cat scarers, but I thought I’d start off by deploying just one and see what happens. I am hoping that the cats – and the foxes – will learn very quickly not to come into my garden and therefore the sound won’t play very often, so there won’t be much nuisance to young people in neighbouring gardens and the batteries won’t need to be recharged every week. The problem with my garden at the moment is that there are too many things in the way, like lumps of concrete and plant pots, so I don’t think I can cover the whole area with one device. I have pointed the cat scarer at the area they seem to like best. Today has been quite rainy so the cats haven’t been out, but it will be interesting to see if they stay away when it’s dry.


Friday 12 March 2010

Tarpaulin expansion

Filed under: Progress — Helen @ 11:57 am

There was a bit of drizzle early this morning, but apart from that, it hasn’t rained since Sunday 28 February. So the garden renovation project is bounding ahead. It’s still quite cold, but this is good for digging and moving heavy stones about. The hibernating newts under the stones are beginning to move a little more when I pick them up and put them under the piles of rubble next to the temporary pond.

I don’t think my plan is very cohesive at the moment because each time I go out I make a different decision about what to do next. However, I have cut down the viburnum as suggested in my last post. I need to dig out the roots and stumps from quite a large area, though, and I haven’t done this yet. I have also made a start on slicing off the top layer of turf from the area where the pond will go (you can’t see this in the photograph). I am digging a trench along the place where the path at the left hand side of the lawn used to go because I think the ground will be compacted there. I am putting turves into the bottom of each section of the trench and then covering them with soil dug out from the next section of the trench. By the time I am ready to have the hard landscaping done they should have rotted down nicely.

I have also dug away under where the path used to go along the back of the garden, and found a huge nest of rubble, including the customary conglomerate made from the washings out of the cement mixer. Since this area will be where I grow my vegetables and fruit, I think it was worth removing the rubble, but it does add to the cumulative soil shortage and the rubble mountain to be taken away at the end of the project.

So I am continuing to dig over the garden and remove rubble and turf, and make the area as level as possible, and I think I have about two weeks of this before the weeds start growing. Progress will then slow down because I will have to spend time dealing with the weeds.

Progress since I first laid down the tarpaulin

Progress since I first laid down the tarpaulin


Friday 5 March 2010

A better way to cover up

Filed under: Progress — Helen @ 2:41 pm

We haven’t had any rain since Sunday morning! I put in sessions both yesterday and today. Anyone who says that gardening doesn’t count as exercise doesn’t know what they are talking about. My right hand hasn’t quite recovered from breaking up the path foundations last week, and this week my legs are stiff from picking up heavy stones and compost bags, even though I used a sack trolley to wheel them across the lawn. It was quite a slow process moving stones about because I had to keep rehoming the hibernating newts under them. It was nice and peaceful because there was only one Extension Man around, and he was drilling holes in the wall and not shouting or playing his radio.

I decided it was time to tidy up my patchwork arrangements of cat and weed barriers, so I laid down one of my tarpaulins which I bought from B&Q before the heavy rains stopped me doing anything further in December. If I took the wheelbarrow off it, then next time the helicopter flies overhead taking pictures to sell to residents, it might look like I have a swimming pool.

Garden with first tarpaulin in place

Garden with first tarpaulin in place

(This picture was taken yesterday evening. I couldn’t take it during the day because the sun was so bright that it cast very deep shadows and half the picture would have been black).

There was frost on the lawn when I went out this morning, but I was warm enough in the sun. I moved some leaf mould, compost and soil into the trench that was left after I removed the path foundations yesterday. I also dug up some of the viburnum suckers. I think I may dig up the whole of the viburnum sooner rather than later because that will leave me a neat rectangular patch which I can cover with Tarpaulin Number 2. (The viburnum is the evergreen shrub to the left of the compost bins).

I think my most important problem at the moment is to get the ground as level as possible. I want the lawn to be level, but I don’t mind if there is a bit of a hill at the back between the lawn edging and the fence. I think I probably have not got enough soil altogether, but I don’t want to buy more compost until I am sure about how much I need, so I will have to borrow some soil from parts of the garden that I am not developing yet. I think I need to remove the turf from the area where the pond will go, and bury it at the far end of the garden. Then it can be getting on with rotting away underground and will have finished by the time I want to plant anything.

This afternoon the automatic vent on my greenhouse roof opened wide. It is all beginning to look a lot more cheerful out there.