January: getting to grips with grass & gravel

So here we are, in 2016. And it’s time to look ahead. The seed catalogues are piling up, and I’ve been scouring websites with dreamy ideas for a fruit area somewhere in the garden. I’d also like yet more space for vegetables.

Of course, I can’t plan ahead without a cool assessment of what worked last year, and an even cooler assessment of what will actually fit in my small garden. It’s worthwhile taking lots of photographs now, whilst there is nothing to disguise the bare bones, so that the reality can be referred to while doing all that dreaming by the fire.

What my photo shoot does reveal is that I have plenty of space to grow more fruit and vegetables. And cut flowers (bee attracting ones, of course!). I just need to think outside the conventions of how the garden is laid out, dictated by the previous owners development of it. It is interesting how we often adopt and adapt to, and shoehorn our wants into, a previously-determined use of space when a little creative thinking can free us to do what would suit us better. In no particular order, here are my ‘blue sky’ thoughts:

  1. Do I really need so much grass? The garden is surrounded by a field that wraps around the back of the house, providing lots of calming green space, conveniently mowed by my neighbours… a flock of sheep. My almost-teenage daughter does need some grassy space to cartwheel and practice her impromptu dance routines (long may they last), and to put out a picnic blanket. I (very occasionally) need a sunny, and a shady, and a private space to put the lounger, with a view of the garden. Although I have a very laisez faire attitude to lawns, it is still a chore to mow and I’d rather be spending that time on other things in the garden.
  2. Do I need so much gravel? It’s good as paths, for parking, and for table and chairs, but could the larger, sunniest areas of gravel have raised beds incorporated into them? Is gravelled parking for ‘up to 3 cars’ necessary? Is the 5 bar gate (using potential parking space to operate) necessary or a nuisance? Would it ‘devalue’ to remove it? Does the drive need to go right up to the shed? The ‘shed’ was originally built as a garage, but will never be used as one now (unless I buy a Morris Minor). Ideally, I’d like the parking not to be near the house at all, but it would be too expensive for me to change that.
  3. Can I remove trees, and which ones, to get more light and more growing space? Will ‘the village’ miss them? Will I miss them? Could I compromise some of the privacy that the hedges at the front (south) give to let more light in, by taking off a foot or two? Will the birds mind?
  4. Whilst efficient and attractive, would more of my formal raised beds look too domineering, too controlled in a cottagy space? What would work best, efficiently, attractively, and complimentary, in the awkward spaces that surround them?
  5. Could I better utilise the walls of the cottage and the shed to grow things up and against?
  6. Where is the best place to put the compost area and the table and chairs (both currently, and obediently, where the previous owners had theirs).
  7. Can I incorporate a fruit and/or cut flower area into the sunny front garden without compromising the ‘curb appeal’ that ‘village society’ dictates? How could I design it to look attractive all year round?
  8. Do I, will I, have more time for more gardening in 2016?

So, there is lots to think about, and decisions to be made. There is no point in getting excited about the arrival of bare rooted fruit bushes if the ground work is not ready. Procrastination is the enemy. It seems like a lot, looking at the list, but I’d say that most of the changes (except for cutting down trees) can always be changed back or adapted. One thing I’m pretty sure about, it needs more light and warmth on the soil to be worthwhile.

Now, where did I put that arborist’s telephone number?


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