As I look down our garden with its long privet hedges, some overgrown trees, a malfunctioning composting system, overgrown beds and a general unsettled feeling about what I could be doing to preserve nature in these ever unsettling times.
I had chance benefit of a visit from Ian McGrigor of Gortbrack Organic Farm. Ian was delighted to share his knowledge and help me out in various areas of my garden.
While it was my intention to get rid of some the hedges entirely, basically because I’m tired of trimming them every summer.
Ian encouraged me that keeping the hedges was the right course of action. The hedges will be a haven for wildlife as well as contribute keeping the garden ‘green’ in more ways than one. Due to this advice, instead of replacing the hedges, we decided to cut them back, hence narrowing and lowering the hedges in places. This makes the process of trimming the hedges more manageable.
Overgrown veg beds
I had some overgrown vegetable beds that got taken over by hard grasses. I didn’t have the will or energy to keep weeding them.
Ian suggested I cover the area with cardboard, especially around the lavendar plants I had in the area. Also grass clippings can be put on top of the laid cardboard as a mulch, providing much needed nitrogen to the ground thus saving the need for constant weeding.
I intend to collect cardboard to cover this bed and fresh grass clippings put on top as suggested.
Kitchen compost bins
We just kept throwing kitchen waste into our dome shaped kitchen compost bin. It started to get quite smelly and we never once took compost out of the bin over a three year period.
Alongside this, I had kept some leaf piles from the autumn leaf fall. Ian mentioned it’d be good to layer the leaf mould and the partially composted kitchen waste and it’ll break down quite quickly. The uncomposted vegetable waste could be put back in the compost bin for futher decomposition.
Its been an ongoing dispute with my partner how to take care of our ever growing garden trees. I’m keen to cut them back to stumps almost and my partner prefers a topiary approach to trees; keeping the trees form for as long as possible while still trying to manage its height and growth.
Ian advises that we coppice the trees in a circular method, cutting back a branch or two at a time. When the tree starts to sprout again at the exposed end, we can then cut another branch, giving the tree less of a cropped haircut and keeping as much of the trees form as possible. This makes sure the tree can easily recover from the limb.
Improving the garden composting system
While we do compost kitchen waste, we had no composting system in place. We pay for a garden waste provided by our local council.
Variable height compost boxes. Ian spoke of a stacked compost enclosure system. These allow you to vary the height of the compost heap and be easily lifted off and moved to the next compost pile.
Hedge trimmings are nitrogen rich. I will attempt to compost all hedge clippings from now on. Ian encouraged me that keeping the hedges was right course of action. He ensures me that the compost heaps will reduce by almost two thirds as the composting process kicks in, providing nitrogen rich compost for the garden.
It’s always nice to spend time out in the garden and knowing that we are contributing to biodiversity and keeping nature working at its best gives us pleasure alone. Many thanks to Ian for his patience and advice as he explored all the options with us, taking into account our semi-lazy approach to gardening.