Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Brambles, clay and lots of graft!

Well here I am in November writing about a lot of hard work which took place in spring of this year! We have just had our first lot of snow and I have to say that all work in the garden has now stopped. The cold weather has made me sit back and take stock of all the effort put in this year. I hope that over the next few blogs the amount of work already completed  will become evident. Taking stock has led me to appreciate the massive variety of wildlife visiting our garden, in particular birds (the feathered type!) which are already showing their appreciation for my efforts! I've had the usual visitors but have a resident pair of green woodpeckers and was fortunate enough to see a Sparrow Hawk swooping down hunting for prey off of the feeders which I have placed in the garden. On the mad side I was happily watching my new feathered friends earlier this week when a coot flew into the tree at the bottom of the garden! Only yesterday I was also extremely lucky to see an Egret happily standing in our field, apparently just passing time! This is a very rare visitor here so a real treat. I ran and fetched my camera to get an even rarer photo only to switch it on and find the batteries were flat!...typical!

You will see that I have included an ever increasing list of birds which visit my garden to the side of this page. I am currently brushing up on my wildlife photography skills in the hope of adding some wildlife and bird photos as we go along....
Yes I know Magpies are easy to photograph but we have lots of  them this year and I have to start somewhere!

Back to the gardening...

Having moved in February I had pond fish 'on holiday' at a friends house and over 70 plants in pots at my parents house. As you can imagine my priority had to be to get my pond built and dig some borders. All sounded very simple so I set about passing a couple of hours digging a border to re-home my plants, I was getting the impression that they were becoming a nuisance stuck on my dad's vegetable patch! TWO days later I had just about managed to clear brambles, ivy, horse tail and just about every other horrible thing you can think of to expose my very heavy clay soil! Now I'd love to tell you how much compost, grit and sharp sand I dug into that border but to say that the gardening industry won't go bust this year will suffice!

(March 2010) Border dug, enriched and planted....brow furrowed and sweaty!

(August 2010).....Rewarded I would say?...

Back to March and concentration now had to be on the pond...So I built a shed!...Well I was fed up with looking for tools in packing boxes!

Operation Pond can now be managed from the new shed HQ...and I needed to be able to find the hammer!

From the above picture you will see the beginnings of the pond foundations and the oak sleepers used to build it. The plan for the pond was to build it out of oak sleepers which would be in keeping with the plans to use wood throughout the garden and to also keep costs and time down. Having built a 'few' ponds before I was happy to take this on however it would be my first 'sleeper' pond! Sourcing and the the fixing of the sleepers was new to me so the project really does now begin!

After much research I found http://www.uksleepers.co.uk/product-catalogue/New_Untreated_Railway_Sleepers to be a good price and having a good range of untreated sleepers which is required when building a pond. Delivery was spot on and my experience ordering from this company was very positive.

Moving the 3meter oak sleepers from the front of the house to the rear required the assistance of a 'very' good friend and between the two of us I think we strained every muscle known to man! I definitely still owe him one!

The foundations were dug by hand and filled with hard core and concrete so that the sleepers had a solid and more importantly level base to sit on. My next challenge was fixing the sleepers in place and reading up on the subject made me think that specified fixings were going to cost a lot of money, so I visited my local http://www.toolstation.com/shop/Structural/Builders+Metalwork/d210/sd2797 and picked up some heavy duty metal straps for a couple of quid each and some Timberlock bolts and screws. for anyone who hasn't used Toolstation before they are well worth a look for bolts and screws etc and are often half the price of elsewhere!

Sleepers were bolted together using Timberlock bolts through the ends and then braced using heavy duty builders straps as shown above. A cheap and effective way of securing sleepers.

With all the sleepers in place it was now just a matter of digging down a foot or three which should be easy...shouldn't it???.....

Next blog will include...digging, digging, digging...oh and much more, maybe I might finish my pond, it can't be that hard!!!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hello and welcome to my first blog

Hello and welcome to my first attempt at blogging!

Back in February of this year I moved house and was fortunate enough to be able to buy a place with a reasonable sized garden. Now I'm no expert on the gardening front but love being out there doing my thing! In fact I would say that I'm very much your average person who goes out to work and then enjoys family times. I certainly have no formal training in gardening and can't quote you all the names of the plants but love to have a go. I am particularly interested in the design and hard landscape of the plot which then allows you to get creative with different planting ideas and indeed different types of plants. I have also kept koi and pond fish for the last twenty years, and aspire to create a unique and fun environment for my family and others to enjoy.

Having already landscaped and planted two smaller gardens I felt the need for the challenge of a bigger plot and project. This desire and the requirement of more outside space for tiny feet (both two and four legged) actually inspired my families 'distant' move of 14 doors along the same road as we already lived in! Yes I know this sounds mad but the larger garden and the advantage of owning some land behind the property swayed our daring move! Youv'e heard the quote "If I could pick up my house and move it...." well this was about as near as we could get to this!

The house is located in Somerset and the rear garden is approximately 130' x 45' so a nice "good" size area. The garden is low lying so the soil is very heavy clay which hadn't been worked or enriched for many years. Other than extremely overgrown hedges and brambles it was laid mainly to lawn with a raised patio near to the house, basically a blank canvass!...Oh and I forgot to say absolutely full of the dreaded Horsetail weed!

(Here is a picture of the garden, as you can see basically boring and uninspiring!)

Now the whole point of this blog is to share with you my ideas and hard work to turn this patch of Somerset into a little oasis for my family and I...

Considerations which I had to include in my plans and design were as follows:

  1. Child friendly and interest
  2. Dog and pet friendly
  3. Construct a fish/koi pond
  4. Make safe and modernise the raised patio area
  5. Keep the sense of size and openness of the plot
  6. Create a sense of intimacy and different areas of interest in the garden
  7. Open up the country side to the rear of the garden
  8. Encourage wildlife in the garden
  9. Make it look nice
  10. My desire to use ALL types of plants from cottage garden to tropical jungle type planting!
  11. Use recycled material where possible
  12. Enjoy it!
Now this may sound like an impossible task to tie all these ideas into this size space but in February this year (2010) we moved into our new house and I started my new project!!!...

A good friend of mine having seen my previous gardens asked me to keep a photo diary of this one which has led me to this blog page and hopefully the unfolding of the design and build of my dream garden.

I hope that with my enjoyment of photography and some funny stories you will also be keen to watch my progress and add comments or more importantly advice and ideas as I go along. 

Photo of a bumble bee on a dahlia grown in an old wheelbarrow recycled from the hedge!

Welcome to Higgy's blog....the story has just begun!!

Next blog will include a shed, a pond and maybe more........