Posts Tagged ‘Country Gardens’


Planning A New Herbaceous Border

There is something quintessentially English about the herbaceous border that can’t be matched in my view. If you’re lucky enough to have a herbaceous border of your own you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about!

If you’re looking to create your own border then read on as we share our journey as we create a brand new border at Blackbirds.

Choosing a site
We  finally finished moving the polytunnel which has given us a much better outlook from the house and to be honest … it feels like it should have been there in the first place! As you can see from the photo below it’s left us with a fantastic space.

Planning our new herbaceous border

It’s approximately 26 feet by 16 feet which is simply crying out for a lovely mixed herbaceous flower border.

Planting a new border is great fun and I’ve been lucky enough to create two borders in the garden already. But there is something not quite right about them, so this time I’m going to do my research first before I attempt to plant anything.

After a brief consultation period with John (30 seconds from memory), I decided we’d use one-half for more fruit and veg and the other for the new herbaceous border. Should look amazing when it all comes together.

The new border will be on my neighbours side of the garden which is currently a large open space on which he stores a couple of caravans.

Planning our new herbaceous border

They’re not overly offensive, but I need to find a way to hide them without having to put up a massive fence. I’m not a fan of wooden fence panels and I prefer to use hedges if I can as it helps to bring in the wildlife.

I plan to grow a few evergreen shrubs at the back of the border to create a little more privacy and to provide a nice backdrop for the rest of the plants. We struggle to grow evergreens on our chalky soil so I’m going to need to be inventive when it comes to the planting. Probably sink a few large pots in the ground and backfill with ericaceous compost.

Designing the border
A couple of weeks ago we had a fabulous few days in Cornwall. We managed to grab the last of the late summer sunshine. Cornwall and St Ives, in particular, are simply gorgeous at this time of the year as most of the summer holiday makers have left.

While we were in the area we visited a fantastic garden at Lanhydrock House where I photographed this amazing border with a fabulous planting scheme. The colours are predominantly light shades of pink, purple and white with the odd rich orange crocosmia which make the border really pop!

Planning our new herbaceous border

What I noticed about it is firstly was the size. It just looks so impressive! Also, it’s planted with occasional evergreens which I think are for structure and to keep the border looking fresh in winter. (Herbaceous plants tend to die back in the winter and can look a little tired)

Fortunately for me those clever people at Lanhydrock left a few printed planting plans in a little cubby hole alongside the border to help visitors identify the plants. Just a brilliant idea … Each one numbered with the full name alongside.

We’re going to base our planting on the border at Lanhydrock House.

It is a simple basic oblong design that fits with my new space which will have a long path down the middle to add the sense of perspective. We’ll divide the area in half with one side for the border and the other for veggies. I’d like to incorporate a feature circle half way along to create a resting spot where we can simply sit on a summers evening with a glass of the fizzy stuff and watch the sun set as it drops below the tree line.

Planting A Willow Arch

We have some willow plants that were propagated from some plants I bought John for his birthday a few years back. I’ll use those to create a little willow arbour which will be trained up and over the circle to create some shade on those barmy summer days. For the moment, I’ve put my standard Bay in the middle as a focal point.

I wonder if I can find an old wrought iron seat to add a little style? …  I’m thinking an old bench like those wonderful old wrought iron benches we used to see at the local cricket field.

Constructing the border
When creating any new border I like to get the paths marked out first. Nothing fancy, just a modest gravel path edged with timber edges. All recycled of course!

All you need is a string line a tape measure, (to keep the width of the path consistent) and a few lengths of 3 x 1 timber. I’m using a few boards salvaged from a couple of old pallets.

The only snag with wood edging is it will rot after a few years … but all you do is replace them and recycle the old ones as compost. Alternatively if you can afford it then iron edging looks great and will last a lifetime but that’s not in my budget I’m afraid.

Timber path edging

I’ve made the path approx 900mm wide which is enough for two people to pass and plenty of room for a wheelbarrow. All I do is drive in a few 2 inch squared wooden pegs about 3-4 feet apart making sure they are on the border side using the string line to keep them nice and straight.

I leveled the edging as much as possible and nailed the edging to the posts. Try not to bury them too deep or the gravel on the path will simply disappear into the border which is really annoying! A minimum two inches above ground should do it.

As the length of the border is about 28 feet I thought it best to divide the other side (veggie side) in half with a couple of paths using exactly the same process with the tape measure and string. Just remember to step back and eye up the lines to ensure they are straight and square to the main path. Nothing worse than a wonky path!

I have some bricks left over from the house build which I plan to use to edge the circle and the natural material of the bricks should help soften the overall feel and at the same time provide a nice little feature.

Planning our new herbaceous border

I’ll need to buy some sharp sand and cement to finish the job.

Well, the new border is starting to take shape!  Next time I’ll share how I plan to approach the planting and make a start on selecting the plants.

Should be fun!

Best wishes

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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English Apples

I just checked my stats for the blog and realised its been over 2 months since I last posted … Lazy or what!  So I’ll put that right and I must apologise for such a large gap since my last post.

As I was sat in the garden thinking about what I might share I suddenly realised just how lucky we are. Our climate is almost perfect for growing our own food, our soil is capable of growing almost anthing we ask it providing we look after it and I constantly marvel at the range of wildlife we have living around us.

The butterfly walk

We like to attract as many insects to the garden as we can .. and no better way than with a butterfly bush walk.

insects

Last Sunday we had a peregrine falcon sitting on the front fence gazing longingly at the row of pigeons on my neighbours roof. Fantastic … Our own pigeons scarer. They still managed to pinch all my greens this year. I can’t be bothered to use nets … Far too fiddly, so next year I’m not going to bother. Not overly keen on greens anyway other than purple sprouting which happens to be the pidgeons absolute favourite. I suppose I could shoot the pigeons but then I think they haven’t done me any harm and forget the idea.

It’s the second time I’ve seen the Peregrine this year and what a fantastic site. Sleek and majestic looking. In fact it’s the fourth raptor we have seen in the garden this year. We occasionally have a Kestrel call by and the buzzards are always squeaking away high in the sky above the surrounding fields. I think they are eyeing up the chickens to be honest. The other hawk we see from time to time is a red kite. They seem to be everywhere since they were reintroduced to the UK in the 1980’s. Easy to spot as they have a forked tail and a distinctive flight as they dive bomb the local mouse population.

But my favourite visitor has to be the barn owl that gets into my neighbours corn barns. I usually see him skirting across the fields about 4 feet above the ground. Occasionally he comes to rest on a post and I simply stop and marvel at this most magnificent bird.

It’s been a good year for vegetables but I’m especially pleased with my celeriac. I can’t believe they start out as the tiniest of seeds. Only 3 months later and they are already starting to look like baby celeriac! They should be perfect by late November early December but they will need earthing up from time to time and an occasional general liquid feed. It’s the only way to get a decent sized crop.

The polytunnel continues to provide us with an endless supply of salads and tomatoes. I don’t worry about them running to seed as I simply repeat sow every 4 weeks up until the end of October. I find if I sow any later they tend not to germinate quite as well. Also I’ve just about had enough salad by November anyway.

This autumns major project is to move the polytunnel. Pain really as we moved it last year but its just in the wrong place.

My Polytunnel
Since we built the workshop last year we’ve reorganised the bottom of the plot to make space for a couple of parking spots so visitors can access our little plant nursery and the polytunnel needs to be closer for practical purposes.

Also it’s right in the eye line as you look from the house out to the garden. Don’t get me wrong I love my polytunnel but it’s not the most beautiful structure in the garden and it blocks the view down to the workshop which is an altogether better looking structure.

workshop

I have to say I think there is a great business opportunity for someone if they can design a cool looking polytunnel. I think you’d be on to a winner!

It’s been a great year for fruit … The orchard is heaving and raspberry’s have been plentiful. We moved them last autumn and although they have suffered slightly from the move they’ve given us a few tasty treats.

Anyway .. I think that’s enough for one day and I promise to post more very soon.

Best wishes

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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 The garden is providing plenty and the nursery continues to generate a lot of interest, but it was a particularly special month for us for two reasons.

Tania had a very important birthday, one of those milestone events that happen about every 50 years 😉 and we also had our 29th wedding anniversary which we celebrated with the most wonderful garden party with  friends and family.

We’ve actually been together for over 30 years which is almost a lifetime I guess, but it’s been a very special time and we’re both great advocates of the institute of marriage.

The garden and nursery were a hit and we had some really nice comments so thank you to everyone that came and made it such a special day. We are both hugely grateful.

That’s the thing about growing plants and this lifestyle we’ve adopted in particular. It helps remove the stress of every day existence, makes you smile more and at the same time gives you an enormous feeling of self worth. Sounds a bit ‘trippy’ I know but it’s difficult to explain other than life is much easier now and we’ve learnt to appreciate a simpler less stressful existence.

As well as taking care of the celebrations we’ve also been hard at work in and around the garden. The nursery continues to grow and we have high hopes for our little venture in the future.


The new outbuilding is really starting to come together with the roof now on and pleased to say is now water tight!  Such a relief as one of the roof windows was leaking slightly which actually was down to a tiny hole in the roofing felt can you believe!

Originally we were building the structure for a work shop and potting shed, but we’ve decided to offer weekend courses later in the year and to do that we need to have a few more ‘amenities’. We’ve started cladding the outside and first fix electrics are in. Still much to do but John is taking a few days off work at the end of the month to finish so should be complete by mid  August. We’ll post an update and some pics on the blog and Tania’s Pinterest channel.

We’ll also be posting details of the courses later in the year.


It wasn’t all good news in June I’m afraid.  We lost all our chickens to the fox one night. 😦

Anyone that has kept chickens will understand what it means to have these wonderful characters wandering around place. They give so much pleasure as well as providing us with the most wonderfully fresh eggs for breakfast, but I guess the temptation was too great for Mr Fox and the little bugger tunnelled under the door and took every last one!

I can only think he must have made several visits in the one night unless he had an accomplice? Either way no sign of any chickens the next day other than a few feathers in their run. Cheeky so and so took the eggs as well can you believe.

We always used to shut the chickens away in their shelter at night, but recently we’ve been leaving them out in their pen as the nights have been so warm. We have a large dog so we really didn’t think the fox would have the nerve, but how wrong we were.

Advice for anyone thinking of keeping chickens. Build a fox proof run, or install an electric fence around the premier, or make time to shut them away at night. It was a very sad day and I have to say it’s not been the same around here since they were taken.

On a slightly happier note it’s July and the first of the summer raspberries are fruiting. Two things I look forward to most at this time of the year. Walking through the garden at the end of a busy day and seeing the gorgeous red colour of the first raspberries contrasting with the rich green leaves and plucking the fruit from the bush leaving that little cream cone in the centre. The taste is sublime and there really is nothing quite like it.

The second event we look forward to is the emergence of the first of the sweet peas. You live without that distinctive perfume for almost a whole year and now you get to experience it all over again. Truly intoxicating!

If you’ve never grown your own sweet peas then do have a go as it really is one of life’s pleasures.

No need for expensive air fresheners, simply cut a bunch of fresh sweet peas and fill a vase full of cold fresh water.  Plunge the sweet peas in as deep as possible and enjoy as they don’t last very long once cut.  Put a vase in the kitchen and the next morning when you sit down to breakfast you’ll have the most gorgeous scent filling the room to accompany your coffee and croissants. I don’t think it can get much better than that can it ?

We’ll be back soon but that’s it for June.

If there any aspects of gardening that you’d like us to cover in the future please do let us know, in the first instance at ruralgardeners@gmail.com.

Thanks all!

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Holiday Treats!


Just returned from a holiday in Devon and Cornwall which was fab.  Partly for a short break but mainly to be inspired by the wonderful gardens in that part of our countryside.

We visited several but there are two that we’d like to pick out for a special mention.

Staverton Nursery – Staverton Bridge Near Totnes South Devon

Staverton Bridge Nursery

We’d read about Staverton in Country Living and just had to seek it out.

This charming little nursery is located in the beautiful village of Staverton Bridge situated adjacent to the River Dart and the Staverton steam railway. On the day we went we had glorious sunshine which made it all the more special.

The whole atmosphere of the place is so relaxing with the sound of the River Dart in the background as you wander down the track that leads to a generous car park.

In addition to two large greenhouses housing the plants there’s a great little café which serves traditional cream teams, and wonderful fresh coffee served in beautiful china cups and saucers. There is also a lunchtime menu which was full of goodies … just wished I hadn’t made sandwiches that day.

The style of the nursery is what you might recognise as traditional … no huge rows of plants all neatly lined up here! Instead we’re treated to beautiful seating areas to rest while you take the sights and sounds in.

It’s clear the food is freshly prepared and the owners clearly take great pride in this business. I do hope they are successful as it’s one of those rare occasions when you come across something that feels that little bit special.

I’d urge anyone to drop by if you’re anywhere near Totnes in South Devon, you’ll not regret it!

Trebah Gardens

Trebah Garden In Cornwall

Trebah is near Falmouth which is in the South Coast of Cornwall. We’d seen it featured on Gardeners World earlier in the year and thought we’d seek it out.

So glad we did!

We’re always lucky with the weather in Cornwall and this year was more of the same.

The day we arrived at Trebah there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was the most gorgeous blue colour.

We parked the car and walked up to the entrance. You could could hear a pin drop such was the calming nature of the place.

The official web site describes Trebah as a “sub-tropical paradise” and they’re not wrong. The primula are stunning at this time of the year and are found throughout the gardens along with massive collections of evergreens.

The Gunnera walk is simply magnificent standing at least 8ft tall in places and the collection of Acers alongside were of special interest as we’re trying to get our own collection together.

As you wind your way down through a mix of plants and water features you eventually reach a secluded beach area complete with intimate café where you can rest with a cup of tea and just watch the world go by. Special moments indeed.

Later in the year the Hydrangeas will be out which is a real treat apparently. Unfortunately we were too early in the season to see them in bloom, but if the size of the plants were anything to go by then you’re in for a treat if you’re able to visit in July.

I could go on but don’t take my word for it, instead if you find yourself in this corner of South Cornwall try and find time to drop in on Trebah. It really is a magical place and will leave you with some very happy memories for sure.

Best wishes,

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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Last years pink weigelia plants raised from softwood cuttings in early June

Last years pink Weigela plants raised from softwood cuttings in early June 2013.

We’ve decided to write a series of posts on the subject of starting your own plant nursery business. Partly in reply to the many emails we receive on the subject and partly because we derive so much pleasure from growing plants.

As we have so much to say we’re presenting the materials as a series of posts to ensure we get across the really valuable stuff in some detail so you can gain the most benefit.

Part 1 – The basics

I’m not even sure what we are doing really amounts to a plant nursery as such. I guess you’d call it a sort of part time hobby that has grown over the last few years. Not only it is great stress buster it also brings in some welcome funds.  It won’t make you a millionaire, at least not overnight, but if you are prepared to work hard I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what you can achieve.

My advice is don’t stretch yourself too much in the beginning. Perhaps start with maybe a handful of plants and feel your way from there. It’s fairly simple to get to started and if you’re anything like us you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it years ago!

You see I firmly believe small growers like you and I can compete with the larger garden centres at so many levels. The most obvious advantage we have is we don’t have hundreds if not thousands of pounds of overheads.

Thyme growing in the nursery

Last years Thyme plants growing away in the nursery.

That to me is the secret, only invest what you can afford and never borrow money to start your business. You don’t need to, just keep it small and when it’s going well plan for something much bigger. If you’d prefer to grow just a few varieties of you choice then that’s also fine. Above all enjoy the experience … it’s meant to be fun!

You might even consider branching out (excuse the pun) into selling your plants through a small web site?  There are several tools out there that make it easy to set up your own shop on line so do your research and you can started for free if you use PayPal for example. PayPal will take around 3% in charges which I think is a small price to pay given you are using an established payment provider and all the benefits that go with it.

Where to begin?

You are going to face a few decisions along the way and perhaps the most challenging is how do I get started?

When we started we both did loads of research on plants and more specifically learning the various plant names. We set ourselves a target to learn the names of at least five plants a week.  Appreciate this doesn’t sound like a lot but setting realistic targets makes it more likely you will achieve them. So be fair with yourself or you’ll get fed up before you’ve even started.

I know John read lots of books and researched other people’s stories and what  successful growers were doing right and where the not so successful ones were going wrong.

We also spoke to lots of people we knew to find out how and why they buy plants. The results were interesting, most replied it was therapy wandering through a collection of plants and imagining how the plants would look in their own garden. They also said when they head to the garden centre they’re usually already prepared to spend money, which is great news for the small grower. All we need to do is persuade them to buy from us instead.

What should I grow?

That’s an easy one. Grow what your customers want which isn’t quite as simple as it sounds, but you can help yourself by getting a head start. Take a trip to your local garden centre and wander around taking a sneak peak in the trolleys. This will give you a pretty good idea what people are buying. Let’s call it homework. 🙂

The garden centre industry spends literally millions of pounds a year on researching what’s in and what’s not,  so if they have loads of Japanese maples dotted around (as they seem to at the moment) then there is surely a market for Japanese Maples.

Japanese Maples

Who can resist the lovely graceful Acers.

If you’re planning on keeping your nursery small it’s probably a good idea to focus on one plant type. Choose something your really passionate about and grow lots of varieties, including a few rare varieties. It will  help you to remain focused and it’s easier keeping one plant group healthy than managing lots of different ones.

Perhaps you have a passion for roses, or rhododendrons, or maybe you’re into trees?  All I would say when it comes to trees your going to need to be prepared for a lot of heavy lifting and you’ll need plenty of space so perhaps they’re best left to the big growers.

 Is it legal to sell plants from my back garden?

Yes but you can’t simply propagate anything and expect to be able to sell it. You need to learn about Plant Breeders Rights and then forget all about it. I’m serious, don’t waste time working out if you are within the law, simply invest in the older varieties as they tend to be pre-PBR and you should be fine. Always check the label on the plant before you buy and if that doesn’t help jump on the Internet and see what information is out there on the variety. Last but no means least you can always ask the garden centre or nursery where you bought the plant.

But what if no one wants to buy my plants?

It can be quite daunting at first and we all experience doubts when kick starting a new venture. The way I look at it is if you don’t make a start how can you expect to succeed?  We were exactly the same three years ago when we started growing our own plants, but after much effort we’ve created what you might call our own little plant nursery right in our back garden which is stocked with a  range of shrubs and old fashioned cottage favourites ready for anyone that wants to buy. I firmly believe if you build it they will come … now where have I heard that before?

Next time in part 2 we’ll look at how to set up your growing space, how to kick start your collection from softwood cuttings and the equipment you’ll need to get you started.

Hope you found this useful.

Best wishes,

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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It really does feel like Spring is in the air this last weekend. The weather on Sunday was gorgeous and the sunshine was just enough to dry the ground out enough to get into the garden.

We had a really productive weekend  which was a mix of manual labour and a slightly gentler activity sowing the first of this seasons Sweet Pea seeds.

It's Time To Sow Sweet Pea Seeds

Had To Relocate The Compost Area …

First priority was to move the compost heaps as we’re constructing a new potting shed and area in the Spring to support the new nursery venture. As you can see from the pics below the new heap is a pretty basic construction made from four posts sunk into the ground about 2.5 meters apart. The sides are made from a few odds and ends of timber we had stashed around the plot.

I think I made my heap too small last time as it never really got that hot, but this time round I’ve made it twice as big and eventually close in the front and add lots of straw into the mix. Should warm things up nicely!

Why Not Build Your Own Compost Heap

First Of The Sweet Pea Sowing’s…

I’m going for a slightly different approach this year with my sweet peas as I’m going to try selling a few bunches on the produce table at the end of the lane. Might also branch out to a view of the local florists if I can grow enough flowers. Something tells me we’re going to need to find a bit more space though.

Brian, one of our avid readers asked what varieties we think make good cut sweet peas? Well I’ve been growing them for a few years now and despite trying various varieties I always come back to the following as they never let me down.

  • Winston Churchill (red)
  • White Supreme (creamy white)
  • Chatsworth (soft purple)

This year I’m also trialling a new variety called Purple Pimpernel which I think could be a winner!

I plant 6-8 seeds on top of the compost in a four inch pot and push the seed in about 1/2 an inch below the surface.  I give the pot a good watering and then leave on the windowsill or in the polytunnel. If you want to speed up the germination add a plastic bag over the top of the pot. I’m not a lover of plastic and try and keep away from the stuff.

The seeds should be through in about 6-8  days when they may need some additional support until they can go out into the ground when all fear of frost has past.

Spring Sweet Pea Sowing

Other sowing’s this weekend …

We’re bulking out with a couple of new Peony  plants, variety is ‘Celebration’ along with a couple of new globe thistles, variety ‘Echinops Nitro’ and Delphinium ‘Pacific Giant Mixed’.

I’ll also sow a few Cosmos and Night Scented Stock later in the year which should produce a wonderful spectacle of cut flowers.

I thought about starting my dahlias off but I think it’s too early as the night time temperature in the Polytunnel can drop quite considerably. I think I’ll wait until early March when the temperature has climbed a tad and we have a few more daylight hours.

My chosen Dahlia varieties for the cut flower garden this year include:

  • Dahlia  ‘Snowflake’ – White Pompon variety
  • Dahlia ‘Bergers Record’ – Deep Red
  • Dahlia ‘Natal’ – Deep red Pompon variety
  • Dahlia ‘My Love’ – White

Sunday evening came around so soon and so ended another busy weekend in the garden.

Next weekend we’re preparing for the arrival of the digger… But more on that later. 😉

Best wishes

rural-gardeners

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Learn How To Create A Wildlife Friendly Garden With The Rural Gardener

My bat box I put up last year in the beech tree is home to at least two bats.

Ever since I came to Blackbirds I wanted to create a wildlife friendly garden and having been gardening this way for nearly 5 years now I must say we don’t seem to have half as many problems with pests and diseases.

That is apart from the cabbage white caterpillars which are the pain of my life, so much so that I’m thinking of ditching brassica altogether! I won’t spray and don’t much fancy spending an hour each day collecting the little buggers.

Oh and the cheeky pheasants that sneak into the garden looking for any stray corn the chickens may have left behind, lovely to look at, but the males give out the loudest shrieking noise … usually when you least expect it.

The secret is to create balance in your garden between the planting and the creatures.
I’ve found the best way to encourage wildlife into the garden is to achieve a balance between the more orderly parts of the garden and the more natural spaces.

When you get the balance right, then you will significantly increase the bird, amphibian and insect population in your garden, which in turn will help you to deal with your pest problems. It’s like magic, I can’t explain how it works, it just does.

Take the dreaded cabbage white caterpillars as a point in case. I encourage the robins and blue tits by putting up next boxes in the hedge close to the vegetable patch next to the compost heap.

They help me with my caterpillar population and in exchange they have a ready made takeaway practically outside their front door

I understand robins are quite territorial so it’s unlikely you’ll attract more than a single pair, but my garden just wouldn’t be the same without my little companion.

That’s basically what encouraging wildlife is all about,  creating a balance, a harmony between the gardener and the natural world that isn’t always obvious, but rather creeps up on you the longer you garden in this way.

Take the humble Hostas as a point in case. Such a majestic looking plant, but I used to have problems with slugs and snails eating the fresh shoots in early summer.

Then a  a couple of years ago we built a small wildlife pond, and since then we’ve had no slug problem!  I suspect the frogs were attracted by the water, and in turn have taken care of the slug population.

Poor slugs …  lucky frogs!

Out of the chaos we have order
I don’t know about you but I’ve always tried to maintain a tidy garden but since I’ve adopted a more ‘organic’ approach to my garden I’ve begun to make changes and it’s producing tangible results.

For example,  I no longer close mow all of the grass, instead I leave some areas to grow long. As a result  wildflowers have seeded in the grass and are now well established attracting loads of bees, which in turn pollinate the fruit trees. A simple principle and very effective.

I purposely leave piles of logs and branches around the place to help bring in the insects for the birds to feed on. Wood piles are particularly effective around the pond as they provide habitat for the frogs and toads, especially when it’s sunny and they need to shelter from the sun.

Learn How To Create A Wildlife Friendly Garden With The Rural Gardener

This is were Dave and Trigger my adopted frogs live!

If you’re  planning to start a wildlife garden of your own, or perhaps you just want to try out a few ideas here are a few of the changes we’ve made at Blackbirds that we feel have  made a real difference.

1. Build a pond, or water feature.
Having water in the garden will always encourage all manner of new visitors into the  garden, but if you really want to score highly with the local amphibian population running water is even better!

How To Create A Wildlife Friendly Garden

Water will bring in all sorts of wonderful creatures and insects.

Try to leave at least one side of the pond to grow away undisturbed. A tidy pond is better than no pond at all, but if you want to encourage slow worms, newts  and frogs, then natural is best! If you’d like to see an example of a wildlife friendly pond I’ve posted a short video on YouTube.

2. Plant a hedge.
I like to grow hazel hedges  for the foliage in the summer, nuts in the Autumn and we coppice the hazel every other year. The poles are really handy for all manor of things. Hazel is probably my most favourite tree of all, its just so versatile.

Another favourite of mine is willow. Really easy to grow and you can so much with it. I’m going to have a go at creating an arch next year.

Learn How To Create A Wildlife Friendly Garden With The Rural Gardener

Willow makes a perfect lush green screen

3. Build a compost heap.
Really easy to build your own compost heap and can be built out of pretty much anything. Try to keep it open on one side so the robins can get at the worms and they’ll repay you many times over.

4. Grow plenty of scented plants.
Grow lots of scented plants, the bees will love you for it and the smell is intoxicating late in the evening when the sun has warmed the flowers. In turn the bees will pollinate your fruit and veg. This year we planted a small cut flower garden and the amount of insects that came to visit was unbelievable.

Learn How To Create A Wildlife Friendly Garden With The Rural Gardener

Next year I’m planning to plant more cut flowers, so easy and so little maintenance required and the house had flowers pretty much from June onwards.

5. Don’t be too tidy.
Leave a few upturned clay pots around the garden for the toads to shelter and the odd brick pile. Position them anywhere you have a slug problem and the toads will come in to shelter and clean up your slug problem.

6. Keep a few chickens.
Chickens can be quite destructive but they will seek out bugs and grubs in the garden and dispatch them with consummate ease. The other good thing about the chickens is they will provide ready made feed in the form of droppings.

The girls enjoying their favourite passtime, having a dust bath!

The girls enjoying their favourite pass time, having a dust bath!

Just remember to put them away in the evening, or you may attract an unwelcome fox into your garden. I love foxes, but not if they plan to dine out on my girls!

7. Grow a tree …  better still grow lots of trees!
If for no other reason than they are just the most majestic of plants. We have a mature Walnut and a Beech and they are home to so many creatures, like bats and owls.

We put up a bat box last year and I’m pleased to report the bats have taken up residence.

I like to encourage bats in our garden to keep the midges under control. We like to have family BBQ’s in the summer without fear of being bitten by the little buggers! so we’re doing all we can to encourage the most interesting of our native mammals.

If your garden is too small for a tree, never fear, then try a small espalier fruit tree in a pot and get the best of both worlds, gorgeous fresh fruit in late summer and gorgeous blossom in the Spring. The bees will love you for it!

8. Mediterranean herbs.
Great for attracting pollinating insects … Plant thyme, marjoram and lavender near to your fruit trees and tomato plants. The bees will do there stuff and you can look forward to the sweetest tasting autumn puddings.

Learn How To Create A Wildlife Friendly Garden With The Rural Gardener

My herb bed is a tad overgrown now, but the bees just love the flowering marjoram and thyme.

9. Wood piles.
Build a few wood piles around the garden, mainly for the insects and creepy crawlers which the wrens and hedge birds tend to feed on, but also they make great shelters for the frogs and toads.

10. Bricks and Tiles.
We have a few bricks and roof tiles left over from the build chucked into redundant corner of the garden. I’ve noticed frogs and toads use the pile to hide from the direct sunlight.

Learn How To Create A Wildlife Friendly Garden With The Rural Gardener

Nice and cool for small mammals to hide in.

In the last 5 years that we’ve been living at Blackbirds I’ve found the secret to attracting wildlife is not one particular measure but essentially a combination of lots of different things that together produce a balance with nature.

Yeah, not everything will work for you but if you get the balance right, then you’ll notice a difference in the way you garden. Pest control will be managed by nature and you’ll have the most wonderful natural space, and all just outside your back door.

If you have any other suggestions for how we can make our garden more wildlife friendly we’d love to hear them.

Best wishes

Rural Gardener

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