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Gardening with Hannah Genders

New house, new garden

Posted on October 20 2009 at 7:17:10 0 comments

Damsons in the hedge

Hannah Genders plans to take her time as she gets to know the growing conditions around her new home.

Moving house is, they say, one of the most stressful things you can do, and I think moving gardens is even more difficult when the one you are leaving is something you have lovingly created over many years.

Still, on a positive note, the lovely people who bought our house bought it for the garden first, without seeing inside – this was my fault, not theirs, and was due to the key not working in the lock for the first time when the estate agent showed them round. Hence they saw the whole garden long before they saw the inside of the house.

Similarly, the house we have now moved to was bought by the previous owners for its garden; the house needed so much work doing to it and it was the garden they were initially sold on.

As I have been looking at properties over the last few months, for me it’s the garden that ranks very highly in the list of important features. I did want something a bit bigger, which is the curse of any gardener as there are always plants you would like to include and can’t find room for.

We finally managed to find a lovely property and there is plenty of scope for me in the new garden. There are some great features and some blank canvases to fill. At the top end of the garden is a little greenhouse and fruit area, but not much evidence of vegetable growing: this I will need to redress and dig out some new beds for the spring.

The soil looks like it needs a good feed; it is a very light colour and rather dry. I will improve it with plenty of well rotted manure, again probably in early spring if I don’t get around to it before the winter.

I tend to lay the manure on as a thick mulch and only dig it in when I plant, which ensures much more worm activity in the soil while the effect of laying the manure or compost on top acts like a thermal blanket and warms the soil ready for planting.

I think there may be problems with rabbits as the end of the garden backs on to fields, so I will need to make sure it is rabbit-proof by attaching chicken wire to the fence and burying it about one and a half feet into the ground.

The next job is to carry out various soil tests – this will denote what type of soil I have in this new garden and how best to work with it. By rolling a ball of soil in your hand it is easy to check the structure of the soil, from sandy (this feels gritty and will not roll into a ball without cracking) to clay-based soil which you can roll into a ball and then make into a thin sausage shape.

Although this method sounds very basic I find it works really well and gives a surprisingly accurate result. The second test I will do is a basic PH soil test – the kits for this are available from any good garden centre – which tells you how acid or alkaline your soil is. It’s very important to understand how this affects the uptake of nutrients and which plants grow best on the type of soil you have.

A small amount of time doing these simple tests and reading up on how they affect your growing conditions really is well worth the effort.
The other aspect that really attracted my attention is the area of walled garden at the side of the house.

It has very little in it at the moment apart from a few perennials and a small tree in the middle; I have always wanted to grow fruit in a walled garden and am thrilled by the idea of re-designing this area.

Although it’s easy to want to get going quickly in a new garden, I do feel it’s important to take your time and not rush the design. I want to find out what plants come up in the spring of next year and I need to ascertain which areas we most use in the garden and where we best like to sit out, then I can begin putting my ideas on paper and thoroughly enjoying the process of creating a new beautiful garden in this fabulous space.


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