Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Feature Rockery and my compost mix

Hello All,

As promised on my last posting I am writing this shortly afterwards to keep you all up to date of the current work on the feature rockery. This project is proving to be quite time consuming so my intention is to post a little on it a bit more often to try and cover it in as much detail as possible for you.

The area of the garden that I am currently working on is situated to the side of the pond and borders the sun patio where we often sit and eat outside. Getting this area right is important as it is central to the garden and seen in detail by visitors who will sit here with a cup of tea (always a brew going for friends at Higgy's!!)

As you would have seen in my last post the area was cleared following the erection of my new fence and I had already knocked down a retaining wall and dug away soil to create terracing ready for underlay and rocks. The reason why I am doing the groundwork like this is that we have a terrible problem with horsetail weed which having not been managed for many years has invaded the whole garden. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of this weed let's just say it's a nightmare and almost impossible to eradicate. My theory is to dig out as much of the soil (and therefore weed) as possible lay a weed membrane and back fill with new compost/soil. Incidentally my current compost mix which I have found really good and consistent is as follows:
1 x bag of Wickes 'top soil' (currently 5 x 25ltr bags for £13)
1 x bag of Wickes 'peat free compost' (currently 4 x 60ltr bags for £13)
half bag of Wickes 'multi purpose compost' (currently 4 x 75ltr bags for £13)
Wickes compost can be found here: http://www.wickes.co.uk/tools-compost+accessories/compost-turf+bark/icat/gdncompost/

Obviously if you were back filling a large area then this method would be very expensive so for more general bulk filling I use Dandy's compost  http://www.dandystopsoil.co.uk/?gclid=CJrxvo-lo6kCFQNP4QodhErpuA but have found that this is very soil based and therefore not so good for growing on young plants etc.

This week I have done a little more to the rockery and as usual will guide you through it with photographs so that you can watch this area develop:

The retaining wall has now gone to create more space and the soil (and weeds) have been dug out. I have 'terraced' the remaining soil to give firm areas for the rocks to sit and to create planting troughs.

Strong weed membrane was laid over this terracing ensuring that each piece overlapped the next by a substantial amount. My compost mix was then shovelled on to create a nice bank of quality soil.

My "free to collector" rocks were then put into place on the terraced parts of this feature and further soil mix added to part bury the rocks and give a natural look and add further depth of compost to the planting areas. (Note that I have a large amount of membrane left this is worth doing as when the weight of the soil and rocks push and crease it down into the planting troughs it will be pulled into the feature, if you cut it to size it will become too short when the soil is added)

I have included steps which will give you access to the large area above the rockery tying it together. (You can see that even here the membrane is overlapped to prevent ingress from weeds) 

Here's my quick and easy way to making steps; once the ground has been prepared place an old breeze block on each step, fix a board (screwed and raw plugged in this case) onto the front of each block and then back fill with concrete and.....you have an instant step!! (these breeze blocks were also "free to collector"!)

I then followed the same process on the other side of the steps...

Once soil and rocks are in place the remaining membrane can be carefully trimmed off. I then added blue slate gravel to the area between the patio and lowest rocks to finish it off, this gravel will also run along the paths in the area above. I threw this gravel on top of the steps whilst the concrete was still wet so it also runs down the steps once again this should add continuity to the different areas. 

That is about as far as I have got with this project so far and as you can see from this picture I'm not quite finished as I have now run out of rocks! The good news that some very good friends of mine have now offered me some rocks which are perfect for finishing this job! (thanks Mark & Claire!)

As I now plan to try and add a few more regular posts I will update you on the other things which I promised to tell you about in my next post....

As always thanks for following Higgy's Garden Project and I hope to get more of your comments and questions which I enjoy so much?????....