Well finally March is here and although it’s not officially Spring until the 20th of this month, l have to concede to the fact that l am super pleased that the majority of the winter period is now in its closing days. I have watched the courtyard garden now properly since the end of August. I decided last year to not have any specific crops growing in the autumn or the winter months and to start the garden afresh from Spring 2021. Now we are nearing it and l do believe the days between today and the 20th will almost warp speed past me as l have a distinct feeling that even though the garden has had enough calm and quiet and uncertainty but wants to start to live again, and l hope to not disappoint it!
It’s been an awkward six months in so far as decisions on what is to be grown in not just my garden but Suze’s garden as well. Original plans included a lot more vegetables than you will read below – however through one reason or another our plans have altered and in some cases quite profoundly so and these changes reflect our health and the stages we are in. I can’t help but notice the irony in these decisions – we want to grow vegetables so as to have a healthier bounty for the table and yet due to health reasons we find that we are now seriously restricted in what we can actually eat! For me it’s mouth problems and digestion issues and for Suze it is the process in which her cancer treatment has taken a toll upon her ability to eat properly and swallow and also she has lost much of her ability to taste. So therefore we have had to sit down and really discuss the plans for the gardens.
Suze’s garden is very different to mine as in she has an odd shaped rectangle which is principally a blank canvas for us to build upon and create a garden from scratch. It hasn’t been well maintained which is sometimes the case of rentals .. but her front garden is mostly slanted rockery without the rocks, but plenty of dirty mound which needs building up and shaping and her back garden is mostly scraggly ‘farmer’s lawn’ [not cultivated back lawn]. Whilst mine is an established courtyard with plenty of space for pots and small beds and other such growing containments on one side as well as an area of shrubbery and some open garden ground for the likes of flowers and so on.
I have been too’ing and fro’ing backwards and forwards with ideas and thoughts and opinions for mine and after much consideration have opted for the following which l shall start work on this coming week with ground prep and feeding and weeding …
|Ornamental Wildlife Garden||50%|
|Vegetable, Herb, Fruit Garden||50%|
The ornamental side to the garden is mostly awarded to wild life anyway – the bird feeders and especially the suet feeders are on that side to the garden. But the ornamental side actually takes up one side completely and a quarter of the other side too. This means that the active vegetable growing side is quite small.
Suet crumbs can make plants growing underneath struggle a bit with the lard dropping into the leaves, the upside is that suet feeds the ground beneath them very well indeed. The organic worm cultures there are thriving and l have found that many ground feeding bird species such as Robins, Wrens, Thrushes, Dunnocks and Blackbirds thoroughly enjoy the fallen suet as it encourages microbians and insects and worms alike to rise to the surface and feed and therefore allows the ground species to feed upon them.
I have also noticed at times if l am quiet or hidden that l also have visiting Wood Mice and Yellow-Necked Mice, the latter species of which l have to say are quite social and human friendly. I know the garden has resident bats as l remember seeing them late last year in the dusk. I have written about the squirrel before. In all, l have maybe a good 15 or 18 bird species visit the garden and aside from those already mentioned above, there are also the Feral Pigeons, Wood Pigeons, Seagulls, Crows, Starlings, Tits, Chaffinch, Sparrows, Finches, Magpies, Jays, Yellowhammers , Woodpeckers and on the odd occasion and literally swooping down and in, Kestrels! I mustn’t also forget the very rare but occasioned – Duck!
I have made an area for a hedgehog, l did see the trails of one last year on the ornamental side of the garden and heard some snuffling which is a beautiful but tell tale noise they happen to make when hunting. You can see above the den or the hide l created last year and it is now wonderfully wintered. It has a cosy area on the inside with a back entrance along the fence, but also serves as a great area for slugs, newts and frogs and toads if there is no hedgehog around.
The worm and compost bins and storage bins at the back of the garden also serve as a protective area for small mammals as well as they are close to the fence line and neighbouring gardens and alley which sits behind my fence. although l am not 100% sure of the flowering shrub at the back above the fenced area, it might be passiflora – although maybe someone with the magical shrub app can identify it more efficiently. But it has some magnificent buds on the vines and l think that when that blooms and blossoms, the insects will love it.
It just makes more sense to have the existing ‘shrubbery side to the garden’ to be the dedicated wildlife garden and as such, l do not have to plant anything over here but can encourage more wildlife to it with a good ground feeder compost like l did last September/October time. This doesn’t mean that wildlife isn’t welcome on the other side or the middle of the garden, as l want as much wildlife and natural and organic wildlife as l can encourage as l will need it – especially the pollinators.
It just means that l don’t have to specifically worry about the shrubbery side now that l have made a hard and fast decision to let it be – although l will be planting into this side of the garden Borage and Comfrey, which will do well. I know many gardeners don’t like to encourage wildlife into their gardens especially during active growing seasons … but l am not that bothered – l will be protecting the crops that need to be protected with netting and so on and l am completely against unnecessary killing of any species and l am also completely against the use of chemicals. We need to not discourage nature to visit, but the opposite.
With the actual ‘gardening growing’ side – l have also made headway with seasonal decisions and have opted to not include ‘many’ herbs, although l do know that Suze is thinking of having a herb garden. I do have growing here already Rosemary, Parsley, Horseradish, Lavender and Aloes. But l will be planting out Chives, Mint and Dill mostly as companion plantings to the vegetables as they also act as natural repellants to certain insects and attractors to pollinators – l mean that is the additional beauty to herbs. They have multiple uses.
It’ll not just be herbs that l plant this season to act as companionships to vegetables but also flowers or perhaps l should add, ‘edible flowers’ that can be used in salads as well as add vibrancy and scents to the garden and pull in pollinating visitors such as bees, bumblebees and butterflies, as well as beneficial insects like ladybugs, certain parasitic wasp species, hoverflies, moths, lacewings and certain beetles. I will cover beneficial wildlife in more depth in the coming weeks in the series A – Z Gardening Compendium.
Companion gardening is a wonderful past time and it has been proved that it can actually aid garden growth and really works wonders in small spaced gardens such as the one l have here. Whilst the courtyard garden here isn’t tiny, it isn’t huge either and so l must learn to make the best use of the space l have available for growing.
So beneficial flowers for the garden and plantings will be old favourites like Marigolds, Nasturtium, [Fresh] Lavender and Sweet Pea. I have been giving some thought also to adding in some of the dwarf sunflower’ varieties – but l am mindful of my resident squirrel who might see this as a golden opportunity to visit also!! We shall see – although l do have the wall space for them.
In addition to my pots l also have some hanging and walled basket locations too and have given decision to grow in these this year, although l am to purchase some new baskets for these areas to replace the ones present that are falling apart. But from experience l know l can grow radishes, cherry or Tiny Tim tomatoes, some varieties of beetroot , ‘chives’, dwarf cucumbers and actually the list is quite exciting if you do include the ever popular dwarf varieties – however l have opted for Tomatoes, Chives and Cucumbers.
I have two small raised beds and two long crocks as l call them and have decided to grow small quantities of ‘ salad type leaves’ such as chards, spinach, rocket, radishes and spring onions in them and the tabled area near the back door will be home to newly planted ‘peppers’, French Beans and Cucamelons and some smaller pots of possibly chives.
The actual potted area whilst small, has got some large containment space – one of the largest pots is occupied with Cape Gooseberry and hopefully they will provide a fresh crop of this succulent fruit this year. Here l will be planting out and growing Cucumber, Courgette, French Beans, Beetroot, Radishes, Tomatoes, Spring Onions, Carrots and Peas. It’ll take some fine tuning especially with the intercropping and companion planting, but the added bonus is the actual walled protection, so l am quite excited to start the ball rolling on this. I will be later this week, next week at the latest starting to plant some seeds, although much can be sown much later on. Probably l will be sowing seeds for the pepper plants.
So, finally, l have made my decisions and laid out my gardening plans for this season. I hope you enjoyed reading and l’ll see you next time.