National Gardening Week has come to an end and here in Devon it seems to have temporarily ushered in a spot of warmer weather. Butterflies, and all sorts of insects have been getting busy in the garden and I’ve been joining in with my own frantic activity. But with spring temperatures still below average, many gardeners must be wondering if this will be another disappointing year.
A few weeks ago, in my post ‘Climate of Change’, I wrote about my ideas for ‘weather-proofing’ my allotment and now I’m trying to make the best of a bad deal in my tiny courtyard garden. Here are some of the changes I’ve made to my garden in recent weeks:
I’ve used larch troughs to create a herb and salad-growing area next to the house. As these troughs are quite substantial, there’s enough room for tomatoes and aubergines as well as for strawberries in this south-facing spot. These are plants that have previously done well on my allotment but are likely to need a bit more nurturing in future. Growing a few crops in my courtyard garden offers more protection from fierce cooling winds, and the opportunity to keep an eye on the army of slugs currently enjoying a population boom. I can also cover tomatoes more easily when wet weather threatens – and maybe this can help to keep the dreaded blight off my crop so that they can ripen in peace. Larch is naturally resistant to rotting and raised beds will heat up quicker in the spring and stay warmer longer in the autumn. The plants will need regular watering though, if we do hit a hot spot this summer and plenty of feeding too. So I’ll be setting aside a larger area for comfrey in my allotment, and brewing up lots of nutrient-rich teas with the leaves.
A smart new look for this previously wasted corner
Painting a high brick wall in an off-white emulsion has allowed more light to be reflected back into the garden and the house, and it’s made a huge difference to the feel of the garden – it’s brighter and feels so much bigger.
I’ve previously painted our shed and garden bench in different shades of blue, and this certainly helped to add a bit cheeriness to the garden during this long wet winter. I’m now on the lookout for any way I can add some colour to the garden – ‘banish the grey’ is my new motto.
Tell tale signs of compacted clay – even my spade bounced off it!
I recently plucked up the nerve to take out a failing herbaceous border – a huge task as the volume of soil easily filled a dumpy bag. This cold, wet, clay soil soil has rotted a number of lovely plants. Unsurprisingly, when I dug down deep under the border, I found a thick clay pan which will have been impenetrable to most plant roots. I’ve left enough soil in the border to support the honeysuckle hedge, which the visiting birds often dive in for cover when my cat attempts to stalk them. A larch trough has now been installed in this area and I’ve scattered some wild flower seeds over it, so the birds and bees will have some food and I’ll have something nice to look at if the sun ever comes out again.
Now I’m left with one south facing bed, which I will mulch to add humus to improve the soil structure and drainage. Some existing plants, like the Coronilla and lavender, will remain, but the ox-eye daisies will have to go or they will simply take over. In the weeks to come I’ll be planning this border to include as many long-flowering plants as possible. And in keeping with the theme of this year’s National Gardening Week, I’m also mindful of the needs of local wildlife. So I’ll be adding a pond in a pot to encourage frogs, and my bird feeders will also take centre stage. Even in my tiny garden, there’s got to be a place for the birds and the bees – and why not, when they provide such quality entertainment. Priceless!
A lady blackbird has learnt to do acrobatics to reach this delicious fat ball
What are you doing to adapt to our changing climate? I’d love to hear your ideas.