Friday, December 30, 2011

Compost Bins & Bird Song.....

Hello All,

I do hope that you have had a great Christmas and received all that you asked Santa for!?....I know that my four year old daughter received just about all she asked for but more importantly we have been able to spend some quality family time together due to a nice long break over the Christmas period. 

It's been quite some time since my last post as life in Higgy's garden has been extremely quiet through the last couple of months with very little action of any kind! I wound the garden down in October as we had a colder spell which I mistakenly thought was the start of our winter only to see really mild weather through November and December! I have to say that due to this warm weather and the amount of berries and fruits that were about I also had virtually no feathered visitors either!

On the plus side this quiet spell gave me good opportunity to get out with the camera and take lots of pictures of our local sea birds. This has been great fun and a nice break from the hard work completed in the garden so far!

Having rested for a while I did start to get restless and as you will have read in the last post start sorting out my wild flower area ready for next season.

As we are situated on what is classed as 'wetland grazing land' the garden does get really wet underfoot at this time of year making many of the waiting jobs in the garden impossible to complete until Spring arrives and the weather and soil dries out a bit! Despite this I have managed to get out this month and build a compost bin which I had been trying to get done for some time!

Not the most exciting of projects but here it is none the less....

 Here is the first of two (possibly three) compost bins. Not very glamorous or pretty but functional and completely free!! In true Higgy fashion the pallets were from an advert I put on a wanted board at work, the stakes used to fix them in place I had left over from the play area project. I simply cut the pallets to size and then drove the stakes into the ground to secure them in place....Easy!! I have added a nice helping of 'free' manure on top of the initial compost to help get it started
  I have enough pallets left to make a further bin opposite this one and possibly another bin behind which once established should provide some good quality compost hopefully!

As far as gardening goes that's about it other than potting up a few tender plants to over-winter in the greenhouse and clearing out the two raised vegetable beds as below....

The two raised vegetable beds have been cleared out and a good helping of manure added onto the surface. Once the manure has been washed in by the rain and rotted down a bit more I will dig it into the beds ready for spring planting.

As stated above the garden has been devoid of bird life for a good couple of months and I have to say that by mid December I was starting to get a bit worried that something was wrong. On the 18th December we had our first 'proper' frost here in North Somerset and I have to say that I was more than a little relieved to see a steady flow of birds back on the feeders with the arrival of - Robins, Blackbirds, Black Caps, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Sparrows, Crows, Black Headed gulls, Dunnock, Green Woodpecker, Chaffinches, Gold Finches, Song Thrush, Jay, Magpies and a Buzzard who flew through right past our kitchen window obviously looking for a quick meal!!!....
Since the above arrivals we have started to enjoy a steady flow of further species including new visitors such as Redwings and the return of my beloved Reed Bunting today! It really did make me smile to see her back on the feeders tucking into the seed! 

With the arrival of my feathered winter visitors I have noticed the garden come alive again with the melodic sound of bird song which is a joy to sit and listen to, how lucky we are to be privileged to be able to enjoy these beautiful and fascinating creatures!

It's great to finish on a high point again and I'll leave you with a few snaps of my recent and current visitors to Higgy's Garden....

1. Blackbird - we have regular visits from different Blackbirds which can get quite 'heated' sometimes!!

 2. Robin - Everyone's favourite and again we often see two or more at any one time here

 3. Blue Tit - Always fun to watch hoping around after insects

 4. Great Tit - Already paying great interest in one of our bird boxes!

5. Goldfinches - Loving the seed heads left on the Verbenas & Rudbekias in the perennial border. It's great to see this as I try to grow plants which look great in summer but also provide food for birds in winter so a real success story for me to see up to six birds regularly feeding on them!  

6. Redwing - A brand new visitor to Higgy's garden this year and I have a nice little flock of about 8 or so Redwings visiting at the moment so really pleased with this!

7. Black Headed Gull - where there's food!!!......

8. Grey Squirrel - And of course it wouldn't be complete without these little critters (love them or loathe them!?)....

Well that really is about it I don't have much else to report but I am so pleased to see the return of my feathered friends and of course first time visits for others! It is great to see and hear the garden alive again after a long period of inactivity. My next project is to start the wildlife pond so I'm hoping to be able to report my progress really soon.

As I write this post we have just entered New Years Eve here 01:00hrs so I bid all of you a very happy and successful New Year! I look forward to speaking with some of you again in 2012, please do feel free to leave me comments and questions as I love to hear your thoughts on my garden and blog and have a good old 'natter' with you!....



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wild flower lawn preparation & a mean bird.....

Hello All,

Isn't it a strange old Autumn that we are having? The weather is just so warm still and October was the warmest on record! I think with the temperature still in the teens November is also set to become a record! Unfortunately I started to wind down my garden in October so don't have very much of interest showing currently, if I had been able to predict this warm weather then I would have made some effort to keep things going longer and probably planted for a bit of extra Autumn colour....

My lack of hindsight has at least given me a bit of a break from the hard graft and allowed me a bit of time to reflect and more importantly plan ahead to next year!

With spring in my mind I have planted 500+ Spring & early Summer flowering bulbs including: Mixed Narcissi (Daffodil), Mixed Alliums, Anemone 'De-caen', Snake Head Fritillary, Tulips, English Bluebells amongst a few other different species. Hopefully come spring I should be able to post pictures of their success!!..

My main project this last couple of weeks has been a complete re-think of my wild flower lawn. This area actually flowered quite well this summer but it was mainly due to the annual wild flowers, which I grew on and planted out as plugs into the lawn. I did lose my fair share to slugs who took an instant liking to my cornflower plugs stripping them within two nights! I am very much against using chemicals and therefore don't use slug pellets in the hope that the wildlife will in time balance out and control them for me to some degree. With both this and the labour involved in mind I have decided to completely strip the area of it's original turf to get rid of the Rye Grass, which is to competitive for many of the delicate wild flower species that I would like to get established here. The long term plan is to establish perennial wild flowers which will grow and seed each year hopefully giving a good variety of colour and longevity to the I grabbed a spade and set to work....

The below pictures show the area which has been de-turfed, I have also taken the opportunity to add extra interest in the form of a 'curved' path, which will weave through the wild flowers on both sides.  

 In all of these pictures the de-turfing isn't completely finished as I wanted to show the depth of turf taken off. Once completed it should give two large areas of wild flower meadow/lawn. 

Once the turf had been completely stripped the remaining topsoil was lightly dug over and raked to provide a nice fine bed of topsoil for sowing the seeds into. Deciding what flowers to plant was actually quite difficult as they need to like the area they're planted in and more importantly thrive in my heavy clay soil, which can get quite damp. After much deliberation and a lot of internet searching I came up with the idea of actually planting wild flowers which are native to Somerset. This seems to make sense and by choosing carefully I can grow plants which would usually grow in this type of situation. Also flowers that are native to this area should help to encourage lots of butterflies and insects which would normally be attracted to and feed on these plants. So with my planting ideas in place I searched for seed suppliers and came up with these two on-line companies who have so far in my experience been really good. Both of these companies had a large selection of seeds at what seemed like a good price and from both of them my order arrived within two days of placing it!

Landlife Wildflowers -

Emorsgate seeds - If you click through on this link and then click into the actual species you are interested in you will see it's county of origin. I used this to research and order the Somerset native species for my wild flower area.

In both cases the seeds arrived within two days, well package with good quality individual packets of each species inside....first impressions are very positive for both of these companies.

Landlife Wilflowers
 Emorsgate Seeds

So as far as gardening goes that is about it, I have rescued tender tropicals such as Cana and Banana plants which have been potted up and put in the greenhouse to overwinter.

Bird life in the garden has been really quiet recently with very few birds visiting the feeders. The extremely mild weather and 'massive' berry crops in the local hedgerows has meant that 'natural' food of the birds is in bountiful supply! This is a great thing for the birds but not quite so good for those of us who enjoy their visits!

One chap who has become a regular visitor to my Koi pond is the Grey Heron below! Fortunately my covers are doing their job and he hasn't been able to catch any fish but I do wonder how long this clever bird will take to find a way around my defences!!?...

A persistent Grey Heron, who despite the covers I made for the Koi pond is visiting regularly.... I wonder how long it will take him to work out how to get around the latest obstacle??... 

So a quiet few weeks but nice in a way and time to get out with the camera and fulfil my other hobby of Nature Photography. If you would like to see more of my pictures then I have now included a link to my Flickr page where many more wildlife and nature pictures are displayed.

Thanks for reading! I hope you are all still enjoying my ramblings? As always please do message me and leave comments or feedback, which I love to read. I will always reply to you and answer your questions if I can!....



Thursday, October 27, 2011

Garden overview - how have I done so far?....Part two...

Hello All,

here I am again with the second part of my overview of the garden and the work completed so far in the 18 months that we have been here.

From part one you will know that I have covered the first six items on my wish list, which was a rough form of objectives for this project for me to aspire to. We covered quite a lot of ground in the last post and I'm hoping that this second group of objectives will be as successful as the first six!

So to remind us again here are the 12 objectives....

  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!
Part two...

7. Open up the countryside to the rear of the garden.

When I first wrote this objective I don't think that we really realised what a great view we would get by trimming the overgrown trees and Hawthorn hedge at the bottom of the garden. We bought the house as it had a good size garden and access into open countryside which in this case is quite flat moorland.
So was the idea of levelling the hedge and trimming the trees to create three open arches a success?...
Well I think it was and will leave you to decide for yourselves with a picture of our view through the natural arches created last year?...

Below how it looked when we moved in, note this is shot in late winter and despite the oak tree having no leaves we have very limited view!

And two pictures below to show how it looked after our initial work...

I have to say that I am pretty pleased with these results and having sat on the raised deck with a beer on a summers evening it is a roaring success to me, what do you think?

8. Encourage wildlife into the garden

Well I could write ten posts about this as we have been blessed with much more wildlife than we could have ever hoped for. The garden is yet to mature so I can only presume this will get even better as time goes on. I'll keep the words short and post up a few pictures to see how we have done...

A small section of the wildlife area which was largely constructed using recycled branches from the 'trimmed' trees
This area blended in nicely with the wild flower lawn which this year was extremely successful at attracting all sorts of bees, butterflies and other insects..
The small log pile is gradually growing and I hope is home to a variety of insects...
The bird count has reached 36 and we had a welcome return of Sparrows who this summer numbered well over 30 in their newly formed flock!..
And of course countless butterflies and insects...

I'd say the start of a big success and possibly one of the most satisfying parts of the project so far!

9. Make it look nice +
10. My desire to use all types of plants from cottage garden to jungle type planting

I've put these two objective together as they go hand in hand, I hope by using good and varied planting schemes it all pulls together to make the whole garden look nice?....

The top lawn is more 'manicured' than elsewhere however to help early spring bees I allow clover to grow and flower in spring which has been very effective in attracting early bees to the garden. the borders here are a mixture of cottage garden perennials and a few other shrubs and grasses
To full fill my passion for exotic plants I created a raised bed of sleepers to 'echo' the pond design. here I grow bananas, cannas & bamboo amongst others. This year I also added 'hot' colour by using Rudbekias   
The shade garden below sits alongside the lawn and perennial border and is home to a seating area under the branches of a clematis covered tree. Planted here are heucheras, ferns and hellebores.
The area surrounding the old stone bridge and stream bed has recently been planted with a variety of grasses, sedges and irises to help soften the edges and link the more 'formal' planting above to the wild-flower lawn, it will be interesting to see how this develops..
The newly planted grass beds above should run seamlessly into the wild-flower area where this summer we had, Corn Cockle, Corn Marigolds and a variety of Corn Flowers growing amongst other wild flowers who have sowed themselves into this area!

So, does it look nice? I think so but still looking forward to everything maturing and growing in size a bit more! Have I used the variety of plants I wanted? Again I am pleased with this so far but can't wait to add more species as time goes on!

11. Use recycled materials where possible

This was the one I was the most sceptical of but in fact it has worked out much better than I could ever have expected. Once I got into the 'recycling' frame of mind I really got into it and managed to 'blag' all sorts of materials from a variety of 'free' or very cheap sources!

The rocks and stones I used for the feature rockeries and the 'new old stone bridge' all came from 'free to collector' adverts....a bargain!

Branches pruned out of trees and shrubs were recycled into hurdles and other landscaping features

Redundant wheelbarrows have become features and planters have been created from old decking planks including the raised vegetable beds below...

I think a gallant effort has been made to used recycled materials as much as I can but as everyone else we can all do more! I know that a massive percentage of landscaping has been completed purely down to the cost saving from the cheap and free materials I have acquired!

12. Enjoy it!

That's easy, of course I've enjoyed it and I hope you have been enjoying it also!?

So to conclude it's been 18 months of hard but enjoyable graft, I've successfully completed some of the ideas I had before starting out and I have also completed many other things, which have evolved as the work has gone along! I have been so lucky to have this opportunity and have enjoyed every second of it. The wild life which has been encouraged to come and use the garden has given the whole family so much enjoyment and we are looking forward to see what else moves in over the coming months and years! My daughter has her own play area and even her own planting bed, watching her enjoying it whilst learning about the garden, plants and the rich wildlife which we are so fortunate to be able to enjoy here feels me with joy. I think that I can say that so far it is a huge success and my objectives and targets have been reached as far as they can in the limited time that we have been here.

So what next?....

Well there will be plenty more to create as well as the usual 'tweaking' of the projects already done. On the list for this winter so far are:
  • finish decking are behind pond
  • create a small wildlife pond and bog garden
  • construct two sleeper raised beds for more veg space
  • erect some trellis fencing
  • tackle the front garden and repair cobbled drive
  • build my compost boxes
  • and of course...enjoy it!!!
As you can see I still have plenty to do to keep me occupied so I'll see you next time when I'm sure something else will have changed or another project started!




Thursday, October 6, 2011

Garden overview - how have I done so far?....Part one...

Hello All,

Well what a busy summer I've had with several projects finished others started and finished and some just started!
Now that Autumn is here the flowers are fading and the ground and weather will start to get cooler. Things in Higgy's garden do seem much calmer now after a busy and frantic summer! I feel it's the ideal time to reflect on the work completed so far. Now would also be a great time to take another look at my wish list which I included on my very first post to see if I have ticked off some of the things I wanted to achieve in the garden.

So here is the original wish list from my very first post and I suppose my 'plan' for the garden:-

  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!

So from the top of the list...

Part 1 (1-6)
1.  'Child friendly and interest'
I think that this is a big yes as my 4yr old daughter has enjoyed the garden immensely this year and loves to run around the various paths and play hide & seek. The seating area tucked away underneath the tree covered by a large Clematis Montana in the shade area has become her "house, shop and petrol station!" Last Christmas she asked Santa for a pink wheelbarrow so she could "help daddy in the garden" I absolutely love to see her enjoyment from being outside and enjoying the garden making the whole project worthwhile. If I have to choose a successful part of the garden  just for her then it has to be her new play area...
My daughter's new play area was a resounding success even if rain did spoil her birthday party!

2) Dog and pet friendly
Well my dog is happy to spend time in the garden, next doors cat spends 'too much' time by the bird feeders until the dog see's her! So I would say yes.
Choco dozing on the's a dogs life!

3) Construct a fish/koi pond....
Yes a massive success and the first 'proper' landscaping job I took on. My fish were on holiday at a friends house so speed was very important on this project. The fish soon settled into their new home and the Golden Rudd have successfully bred in their first season which I think is a big thumbs up from them!

My fish bred this summer so seem happy in their new home!

4) Make safe and modernise the raised patio area...
Again one of the first jobs to be completed as the old patio was raised with a three foot drop onto a lower patio, dangerous with a young child running around. I wanted to keep the height as this would eventually offer far reaching views over the garden and across open countryside. A raised deck was decided on to keep materials similar to the pond and for ease of construction...

The raised deck fits in well with the pond and is a perfect viewing platform across open countryside, the addition of balustrade makes it child friendly and safe! 

5) Keep the sense of size and openness of the plot...
A difficult one to judge as the project isn't finished and the dynamics of the garden will change as plants grow this space I think on this one!

6) Create a sense of intimacy and different areas of interest in the garden...
Yes I think that have achieved this and as above this will improve as the garden matures and more work is completed. I have tried to create different areas in the garden like the large perennial borders and then the complete contrast of the wildlife area which is much more rugged. There are various seating areas with some giving a sense of intimacy such as the home made bench in the shade area tucked under a tree and the obviousness of our new swing seat which gives you a view from the bottom of the garden up to the house. These different areas and aspects add interest to the site and hopefully make you want to explore a little more!

Various seating areas give interest and different aspects to enjoy the garden from.
This home made log & sleeper bench in the shade area provides a private hideaway from the hot sun...
The newly installed swing seat is more obvious and gives a view up the full length of the garden towards the house and is open to the hot sunny summer weather!

Different 'themed' areas add interest and make you want to explore some more...

My stone bridge and pebble streams add a little drama to the project and help connect....
The more formal mowed lawns and perennial borders to....
The wild flower lawn and....
The wild life area!

 I think that five out of the first six from the original wish list isn't bad? As the garden matures and more importantly plants and trees grow bigger the whole space will become much more interesting and certain areas will naturally become more private and intimate. With areas still waiting development there is plenty of scope for me to be more creative and add a little drama in certain areas which I hope will be fun watching it develop.

That's about it for this post. The results of my first six wish list items have now been recorded. In my next post I will cover the last six items on the list to see if I have achieved what I originally planned or whether further work is required!....

As always thanks for reading I do hope that you have been enjoying this blog since I started it last year and watching this little part of Somerset evolve as much as I have enjoyed doing it!!?

Please do send me your comments....what do you think of it so far?.....have you got any ideas for my plot?....How could I improve this blog?



Sunday, September 18, 2011

Oh Deer, horse manure and a play area.....

Well hello again and once again it's several weeks since my last post! Apologies for this but as stated on my last two posts it's that busy time of the year which keeps me very busy and limits opportunities to get on the computer somewhat.

Without further ado lets crack on and get straight into this post and update you on much of the work started, completed and not yet completed in Higgy's garden...

Last post I left you when we were right in the middle of that difficult area behind the pond which didn't really offer much other than some empty space once all the brambles and old fence had been cleared. If you browse back through the previous post we had completed construction of a raised bed walkway with plum coloured slate path. Obviously the next job for me was to fill the raised beds with soil ready for planting, my chosen mix for these beds was easy and consisted of roughly :-

1 x bag of horse manure - 'free to collector' advert!
1 x bag of Wickes compost (which is still on offer 4bags for £14) 
2 x bags of top soil -  'free to collector' advert!

My planting plan for these raised beds is to try and grow some very large and 'lush' types of plants to give a 'jungle/tropical' feel as you walked through the area and past the beds with the idea being that once grown the plants would be stood tall in the beds increasing the appearance of size and creating a dramatic atmosphere...(that's the madness behind my plans/thoughts anyway!!)

Although this project still isn't quite finished and is a couple of seasons away from it's planned 'drama' here it is in pictures for you....

In this picture above you can see that this area sits nicely behind the raised sleeper koi pond and the steps lead you up from the feature rockery into this area, I used the plum slate to give a nice flow from the raised bed area down into the rockery/seating area.

 Here are the steps which lead you up and make you want to explore a little further. This is the view you get from the seating area which should be quite dramatic once the plants have filled out and reached their full potential.

A couple more views (above) which again just need the plants to fill out....planting so far has consisted of several large grasses which should reach up to 1.5-2mtrs tall, a Fatsia Japonica which will form a a large bush with big leaves. To keep the 'tropical' look I have also planted an old cordyline which was doing nothing in an old pot and to get a little colour and some extra plants for this year some rudbekias which were sitting around in my cold frame looking sorry for themselves! 
Also added since these pictures were taken is a rodgersia which has lovely large rough leaves and a lovely scent when in flower and  a few more green/foliage plants for both height and ground cover.

At the top of this area will be a sunken deck with ferns (above) and hostas in as this will be shady which will provide ideal conditions for them and add some lush green foliage to keep the 'jungle' theme going and make a great experience being sat down in amongst all the plants.

This last picture gives a bit of an overview and I hope you can see where the deck will be and get an idea of how it will look once completed and all the plants have grown up?

That's about as far as I have got with this area at the moment due to my 'garden project' budget having been  just about depleted now!!....I have however now managed to source some old hardwood deck boards and framework off of a work colleagues mum which should enable me to get this finished during the next few weeks!!

Ok so what else have I been up to if that wasn't enough?.....well I have to say lots!!.....and the garden is really looking good at the moment with August being a great time with so many of my planting schemes reaching their peak during this month. I intend to take some more pictures and in my next post share some of the planting with you in more detail when I have a bit more time and space to show you.

For now I want to quickly show you a little 'unplanned' project which I completed over a weekend for my daughter recently. Now with her fourth birthday closely approaching and the plan to have a 'garden' party for her and all her friends good 'old Dad' went to work to give them a play area to enjoy, as all of her play equipment had been gradually getting pushed further and further into the hedge row!!....

Here is the new play area which sits nicely behind the new greenhouse enclosure. The area was cleared and then I used a weed membrane and finished with a good thick covering of play bark which needs to be to a depth of about 8 inches.
The trellis panels were secured into place using fencing stakes which I then rounded the top and painted them to look like giant pencils to add a bit of fun and interest for my daughter. 
The planting scheme in the bed at the front of the trellis is chosen by my daughter who wanted "pink!"  I did add a little white in as a contrast!! 
Finally a sign was added to give her a sense of 'her space' and to welcome her friends into the play area....

Well there you have it a quick and easy play area knocked up in a weekend.....simple!!....and of course you all want to know how did the garden party go????......It rained all day and we had an inside party!!!!LOL!!

That's about it for now other than to show you a picture of a visitor who I have seen twice this week in the fields at the bottom of the garden.....

 Yes we do have a lone deer who seems to be in the area at the moment and thankfully she is staying out of the garden as I know they have potential to do a lot of damage! But what a great sight from your kitchen window isn't it!?  
 (I have to confess that although taken across the fields near our house by myself, this isn't the 'actual' deer I've seen which I have yet been able to get a decent picture of!)

I think that's about it for now, next time we will look at some re-design and new planting near the old stone bridge and have a general overview of where the garden is now and how it has looked during the summer of 2011.

As always please feel free to comment as I am always keen for feed back whether positive or developmental....