Rebuilding The Retreat

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Season 3 – Autumn/Winter 2019/20

Doin The Dirt Directory


Back Garden  looking to The Retreat Spring 2019

In my last post to this series Hi Ho, Hi Ho, A Gastropodding We Will Go! I was discussing the plans l had for the growing season next year [2020] and how l was going to try and benefit from the gastropods [ snails and slugs] that come into the garden to feast on my plants, flowers, herbs and vegetables and how l was also going to build certain hubs to encourage more natural predators to the garden itself. I briefly mentioned the Bug Hotel and included quite a few videos to assist those who might be interested in creating their own, as well as outlined some ideas that would additionally encourage pollinators to the space.

This episode will discuss further the Bug Hotel [BH], the amphibian hubs and other natural areas for the likes of frogs, toads and newts, but equally my plans for planting around the BH to promote and motivate the spaces for more pollinators.


Our garden here, enjoys a lot of visitors both new and returning in the forms of birds, mammals, amphibians and insects every year. The spring and summer months especially sees a lot of pollinators and having worked and observed this garden since late 2016, so three years now, l have come to appreciate how this garden works – how the soil responds to tending, what grows, what doesn’t, what thrives and what most assuredly doesn’t. Due to being quite close to the coast, the beach front is literally ten minutes away by foot – the soils here don’t prove kind to some plantings and yet much kinder to others and these are valuable lessons for a gardener to acquire with regards their plots.

Luckily the garden here is protected by hedges and trees and just the general suburbian builds as in the neighbouring houses and so whilst we do suffer from winds here,  because of the partial enclosures it isn’t too damaging. Of course, this does have disadvantages. We are a south facing garden beset by some obstacles, one of which is the neighbours trees. After a certain time in the day in spring and summer it eliminates the sun we could enjoy in the garden, and if we were not renters but home owners we would be in discussion with our neighbours about their tree undergoing a haircut! It’s a bigger tree than it needs to be having a height of sixty foot, and is thirty years of age.

I am against trees being cut down unnecessarily, but that tree is too big for the neighbourhood and surrounding area, but directly the only garden it seriously affects is ours, so no formal complaints have been issued and as said we are only renters, Suze and l have said however that if we are to stay here for another few years, then we will have discussions with them about a potential prune, just so we can reclaim some of our prime growing windows.


Creation Bug Hotel September 2016

I created the bug hotel in September 2016 using small half sized pallets, better known as the ‘European pallet’ in the UK, and it is not secured between the levels so as to allow for quick and easy access if ever needed. Inside the shelves, l included drilled out bamboo poles, twigs, small branches, log slices, bark, old fern branches and used small logs around the base, alongside broken ceramic pots. But l also included the likes of pine cones and rotten logs to further provide environment for insects. On top l placed a shallow growing masonry planter and various earthenware gardening pots which l could plant into.

The first growing period for us was in fact 2017 [ season 1] and the garden and l had an enjoyable journey of learning, discovery, exploration and understanding of what would work.

When l first moved into the property in July to end September 2016 l started taking several photographs throughout the day to try and understand where the sun was and how it was placed throughout the garden and l continued to photograph for all of the season’s for our first year to really try and appreciate what enjoyed full sun [6 hours+direct sunlight], partial sun [4-6 hours direct sunlight], partial shade [2 – 4 hours direct sunlight] and full shade [less than 2 hours of direct sunlight]. The results were quite revealing, and l then fuirther discovered just how much sun that tree took from us, our garden and potential growing abilities.

The job was to then work in a growing schedule that would give us the best results. That was season 1 and l worked a full garden strategy that year to really push the limits and to then test the results. So l am looking forwards to Season 4 [Spring onwards 2020].



The Retreat – Summer[August] 2018

Suze and l love this slice of the garden and we named it The Retreat, it is really lovely to sit out here on hot sunny days and balmy long summer nights and have some lunch or enjoy a barbeque and a refreshing and relaxing drink – so l have decided to really try and work some magic here for next year. In the previous seasons it has enjoyed plantings of herbs and flowers as well as the nearby raised beds vegetables.

This coming spring we have both decided to repaint and repair the chair and paint and weatherproof the shed as they have taken some battering. The bug hotel also needs some revamping.

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The Wintering Bug Hotel 24th November 2019

Yesterday l was out in the garden for the usual Sunday chores of raking the leaves, refilling the feeders, sweeping up and attending to the compost, and l started to assess the requirements for brightening up The Retreat.

We had it near perfection in 2018 – we had herbs growing, like fennels, mints and tarragon, oregano and chives. Some of those did really well, others did not and some quickly went to seed. On the palm tree we enjoyed excellent success with cucamelons which are a fabulous fruit grower .. and a beautifully succulent tasty snack. As you can see they are like miniature watermelons!

How to Grow Cucamelons (Mouse Melons)

There is quite a bit of work to be done in The Retreat in readiness for next year’s enjoyment. Painting the shed, securing the new bee hotel, repairing and repainting the two seater and planting the area itself for a fuller productive season for both the table and the enjoyments of wildlife and especially encouraging even more pollinators.

How to Grow Horseradish

The horseradish loves the position, but this too needs a lot of work. The 3 foot barrel is ideal for growing, but proving a devil to harvest and when it is not so wet, l have plans to cut the barrel in half to still allow for great growth, but much easier harvesting access.

That as a job is still to be done for this year if we aim to finally make some horseradish sauce as Christmas gifts. Sadly and ironically neither Suze and l will be able to fully enjoy the strength of this crop as a sauce as our digestive systems will probably abandon our bodies, but it’s great for gifting out! It has flourished in this spot, and has gone from strength to strength each new season. It was originally planted here in September 2016 and even now, is having fun growing again!!

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November 24th 2019

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The Wintering Bug Hotel now experiencing its third winter is a far cry from the day it was created, but has residents such in the upper levels, we have bees and beetles, whilst the lower levels has a hedgehog, newts, frogs and toads. The latter also have a slipaway which leads to under the shed itself and the hedgehog can take advantage of this area too as it allows them further access into the neighbouring gardens.

The Slipaway is an enclosed area, principally also to keep an ever inquisitive Scrappy out, who was great at getting in, but utterly useless at getting out! But l have built it up, and incorporated pipes and rockeries, areas to burrow into, the undercrop of the shed is within easy reach for all and when l sift the compost the residues are tipped in here also to add both nutrients to the few weeds that grow, but also snacks for the residents. This area is really loved by the frogs and toads alike and last year l counted at one time a total of 9 frogs, toads and newts in here!

I try to keep the bug hotel and surrounding area as organically natural as l am able so will never rid the area of any fungi’s that grow here, some of the Leopard slugs also live here. It is quite a damp corner, but it is shaded and covered. So larger predators don’t have access either and so the residents don’t have to fear from large birds or rummaging foxes.

The planter on top was emptied out yesterday as the soils are better served in the comnpost pile than wintering and so as l was emptying this out  l was able to think on how l wanted to plant this area up for everyone’s pleasure, human and wildlife alike. Holding a top position, and being a very weighty item, it means that l can plant out a draper this coming year. I would like to see some more colour here, perhaps some flowers, maybe some fruit. The cucamelons will again be planted to the tree, but l was thinking of planting some nice ground cover leading to the slip away that doesn’t need a lot of sun.

The retreat enjoys different sunny positions throughout the day and the seasons themselves. This particular corner is probably best described as partial shade, whilst the two seater is parked in both full sun and partial sunlight alike pending the season.

So my plans for The Retreat 2020 are to be a mixture of herbs, flowers, fruit, ground covering and vegetables ….





Oregano [Draper]

Horseradish [Barrel]


Golden Hop [Climber]

Lavender [Uprights]

Cherry Tomatoes [Drape downs]

Creeping Jenny [Ground Cover]

Salad Greens [Base locations]

Anise hyssop [Base Locations]

Wild Ginger [Ground Cover]

Forget – me – nots [Ground Cover]

Cucamelon [Around Palm Tree]

Raspberry [Base Location]

Sweet Pea [Climbers]

So quite the nice collective package l think for The Retreat, for us to enjoy, bird life, pollinators alike and local residents to the actual bug hotel itself …ooher quite looking forwards to it myself!

As l start the building and planting of these new ideas, l’ll keep you informed all the way. Here are some videos that you may find interesting, from around the world!

Anyway l’ll take my leave of you now

Thanks for reading everyone, till the next time …

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12 thoughts on “Rebuilding The Retreat

        1. Hey Gary, brilliant news, they are fun to build, they don’t need to be top notch, the residents just love to feel secure 🙂

          When done, post an image 🙂

  1. If only I could have a garden…I could use so many information from your posts Rory 😉
    That retreat is adorable as it is!
    You are a very nice and gentle landlord for all the hotels in your garden 😉

    1. Thanks Ribana, it’s the very least l can do, we are all guardians to planet earth, we don’t need to be hard core axctivists, we just need to care 🙂

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