Our Somerset Garden

 In Gardening, Gardening for Wildlife, Gardens Visited, Hardy perennials

Our Somerset garden is now just three years old.

aerial image of garden

The long rectangular garden with wildlife area in foreground

We moved to South Somerset in December 2018 and bought a property with virtually no garden at all!

As we approach the end of another year I think that it’s a good time to look back and pick out a few of the highlights.

This is the fourth garden that we have created from an empty plot.

Of course, a great deal of the time when we have been working on this garden has been during the Covid -19 pandemic. This has been the perfect distraction from that!

 

How it looked this autumn

a garden in autumn

Autumn light on our garden

A friend kindly offered to film our garden with a drone.

Another friend then edited the footage, gave it titles, produced and performed the accompanying music track.

Here is a very short video on YouTube [less than 1 minute long] which will give you a real feel for our Somerset garden. While you are there be sure to subscribe to our channel!

Take a look at the video now!

 

 

 

What we started with

At a little under an acre this was a bigger than average garden!

We’ve since added a small strip of adjoining land and so the plot is now 1 acre.

It’s a long rectangular plot with slopes very gently up from the road frontage.

a grass covered garden with trees

The plot covered with rough grass

The previous owners were not gardeners but kept the grass, which covered most of the site, roughly cut.

At the front we inherited an old crab apple tree, a pink flowering bird cherry [Prunus padus Coloratus] and a multi-stem Golden Rain tree [Laburnum anagyroides].

At the back there was a poor tree peony that we rooted out, a very nice shaped hornbeam tree and various scruffy looking hawthorn and elder trees that had managed to fight their way above the masses of brambles. With the exception of the tree peony we have kept all these trees but, with the exception  of the hornbeam, they will be replaced by more attractive trees when newly planted ones are larger.

Towards the back of the plot we inherited a small fenced vegetable plot which we continue to grow veg in.

There was also a small unheated polytunnel that has proven to be very useful.

There are two large apple trees which I got very excited about. However once they produced fruit I quickly realised that these old neglected trees are a mixture of rootstock suckers and are both cider apple varieties.

In the wildlife area we have several large ash trees which cast light shade but have masses of roots close to the surface. These roots will be a challenge to contend with.

 

The soil in our Somerset garden

The soil here is a heavy clay loam. This has its advantages since once established plants grow well.

However the plot is poorly drained and the soil structure needed to be improved.

Mini digger digging a trench

Mini-digger laying drains

Hiring a mini digger I laid land drains and back-filled the trench adding a generous layer of coarse grit.

To flocculate the clay particles and thereby improve the soil structure I added gypsum lime to the whole site. Gypsum lime has the advantage of not raising the soil pH which is already higher than neutral.

I noticed initially a distinct lack of earthworms.

But after using Bloomin Amazing as soil mulch for a couple of years there has been a significant increase of earthworms. I’ve reviewed Bloomin Amazing as a great mulching and soil improvement product here.

 

 

Year one

The first year was all about learning what we had and we didn’t have.

We spent most of that year trying to improve the soil, the drainage and getting rid of lots of pernicious weeds.

new ponds

Pond and seasonally wet area

The top third of our plot is devoted to wildlife and to trying to garden for wildlife.

Hearing from neighbours that there was once a pond on our plot, we decided to dig one again. With a mini digger our first attempt was promising but even though we were digging down into sticky clay the pond still dried out in summer. So with another digger I dug deeper! We now have water all year round and also another area that seasonally floods.

In this wildlife area we have also planted a handful of half standard fruit trees and many native wildflowers.

On our road frontage and along one very long perimeter we inherited a neglected and overgrown native hedge. Much of this hedge is of field maple and of blackthorn. Fortunately I had learnt to lay hedges from my maternal grandfather and practiced it from time to time. If you’re not familiar with this traditional hedge cutting technique it’s clearly explained here.

We also planted a new hawthorn hedge along one long boundary and this has established very well indeed.

We discovered that roe deer also enjoyed our plot! Deer can cause devastating damage to gardens as I’ve described in this blog here. It contains several images of deer that were visiting our garden.

A deer proof fence of 2 m high has kept them out.

 

 

 

Year two

We cleared the old scruffy lawn and sowed fresh seed. But before doing that we tried hard to rid the garden of nettles, docks and thistles! So far it looks as if we have succeeded!

A garden studio

A Creative Garden Studio under stormy skies

We added a lovely Creative Garden Studio sourced from a local Devon company.

I review this studio here. I’m sat writing this in our Creative Garden Studio now and I love it!

 

 

We brought our old 12 ft x 8 ft Robinson greenhouse from our previous garden. This was supplied to us by the aptly named Incredibly Sensible Greenhouse Company

It has a few extra features that were useful when we used it to film programmes of H.T.V Garden Calendar back in the late 1990 s. We filmed and presented almost 150 x 30 minute programmes!

a garden and studio

A pig slat path leading to the garden studio

We used an unconventional product to create a path from our patio to the studio. This product is normally used for intensive pig housing and a raised floor. These ‘pig slats’ allow the droppings to drop through to a void below where they are mechanically swept away. We have these laid upside down and filled with free draining aggregate. It has proven to be a very satisfactory path that was easy to install.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year two – plants

a garden full of flowers

Flower borders in year two

During this year we bought many new plants!

Many of these plants were supplied to us by Howard Nurseries who are wholesale only. But we bought many from Hardy Cottage Garden Plants too.

Of course wherever we went that year we picked up the odd plant or two to add to our Somerset garden!

We lined these plants out to grow bigger before planting them into their final positions. Many of them were split into three or more plants before finally planting into the flower borders.

We had brought some plants with us and in particular part of my hellebore collection. You can read about this collection here and here.

In autumn we planted most of our plants into flower borders that my wife Felicity had designed. You can learn more about her design talents here.

We added a second polythene tunnel during 2020. This one is a Keder Greenhouse polytunnel which I have reviewed in a blog here. In this tunnel we have grown tomatoes, cucumbers, chilies, Florence fennel, peppers, sweet potatoes, strawberries, pak choi and anemone blooms.

 

 

 

Year three

This year [2021] we have been delighted with how well plants have grown.

Sieving garden compost

We’ve added a large fruit cage from Harrod Horticulture. And of course this is almost full of soft fruit plants already! Most of these came from Kings Seeds and they supplied us with some of the best quality fruit plants that I have ever bought.

We finally got around to constructing compost bins. Up to now we have made as much compost as we possibly could but without the bins to do the job properly.

We purchased a further 3 metre strip of land from our neighbour’s field and have planted a hornbeam hedge along this long boundary. The adjoining land [about 4 acres] is in fact a private arboretum. It has many interesting non native trees but also an adjoining small copse and an ancient apple tree plantation. This enables us to enjoy seeing a wide range of wildlife on our doorstep!

a field with trees

The view of our neighbour’s land from our kitchen window

 

Future plans

bright garden flowers

Hot colours!

Our garden lacks evergreens and structure in winter and so we will be adding this. We’ve planted lots already but more are needed.

We hope to add a pond close to our home but we will have to wait until a small extension has  been completed and builders are off site before we can contemplate that.

The front garden will be developed when builders move off site and this area will have an exotic planting theme featuring bold foliage and bright hot colours.

I’ll write about new developments from time to time on here but I’ll be posting regular updates on my Twitter and Instagram accounts. Do follow me there! You’ll find the details at the very bottom of this and every page.

 

 

Special thanks to Tom Churches for his amazing editing and creative skills in the drone video

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