If you think your garden is too small to be biodiverse then think again. In these days of ecological crisis turning any space, no matter how small, into a biodiverse garden can make a difference. It will not only help the environment but it may also improve your physical and mental health, there are not many things quite so enjoyable as gardening.
Even if you only have a door step or a window sill you can create a little spot to grow some pollen rich flowers to help save the bees and attract other insects. Vegetables and fruit can be grown in a wide variety of containers and a splash of colour can be added with some flowering plants.
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Because this is a Saturday Selfie post, when I reveal a little about myself, I am going to tell you about one of my previous gardens. Creating this garden was one of my greatest achievements and it was listed with the Ulster Garden Scheme for people to visit. It was one of the smallest gardens they had listed at the time. I undertook all of the work myself apart from building the shed (although I have constructed many a flat pack shed in my time).
The text that I am using from here on is mainly from a leaflet that I wrote back in 2011 when I held an Open Day to raise money for a Children’s Cancer Charity. So it was written for people to read as they walked around the garden.
The photos that I am showing were taken at different stages of the garden’s development and at the end of the post I have shown some of the work showing the before and after.
When designing the garden I wanted to create a garden that was not only beautiful but also productive and wildlife friendly. I built in as many different wildlife habitats as I could accommodate. I also planted a wide variety of species to create biodiversity, hoping to reduce pest and disease problems and attract bees and other insects.
I started the construction in May 2008, completing the heavy work and most of the planting by the summer of 2009. When, in August 2009, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer the main thing still to be done was the grass area. Determined to finish what I had started I sowed the grass seed the week before my surgery. The garden was a real blessing to me during the 20 months of my treatment. The bird feeders attracted a wide variety of birds and as I rested between treatments I enjoyed watching the birds and also seeing the garden develop and change with the seasons. Having completed my treatment in May of 2011 I felt a celebration was in order and so I decided to hold a fundraising event to mark the occasion.
The Features Of The Garden
Entering the garden through the side gate you pass through a utility area before coming to a vegetable and fruit area.
Recycled barrels linked together and filled via a rainwater diverter from the down pipe. Once filled the water is diverted back to the down pipe. The water is used mostly for the vegetable beds and to refill the ponds when they need replenished. It is best to avoid tap water in the ponds as it can create a build up of chemicals.
A must for any garden! To provide compost for tubs and baskets and to enrich the soil. It also creates a habitat for wildlife
The ground at the side of the house was very stony and this was a wasted space so these raised beds support a small supply of home grown vegetables. The arch linking the two beds is useful for climbing beans and the baskets on the arch contain Alpine Strawberries grown from seed this year.
The raspberry canes in the corner are Autumn Bliss, (heavy croppers). On the side fence are two cordon gooseberries which have provided a tasty meal for hundreds of gooseberry sawflies this year! Beside the shed is a redcurrant bush and below it you will see some rhubarb. The cold frame houses perpetual cropping strawberries which should fruit until November as they are not so dependant on daylight hours. There is also a tower planter of strawberries beside the water butts.
Behind The Fence
Please take time to look behind the fence. Originally I erected this fence to hide the boiler, oil tank, bins and coal bunkers. The bins and coal bunkers have now moved to the side of the house and this has become a much more useful space. On the back of the fence are baskets of strawberries. A small polythene greenhouse is used for starting seeds and housing tomato plants. On top of the boiler is a cold frame which benefits from the heat of the boiler in the colder months. There are potatoes growing in bags, peas and broad beans in grow bags, parsnips just starting (also in bags) a herb pot and some shelves that provide a home for plants growing in pots. The shelves have Water Matting below the pots to cut down on water wastage. There is also a Drip Watering System to provide water to the grow bags and baskets. This system runs around most of the pots and tubs and can be operated with a timer if necessary. This cuts down on water wastage as the compost can be kept moist at all times preventing ‘run through’ if it becomes too dry.
This provides a Rockland habitat similar to a scree or shingle bed. Please use the stepping stones as you walk through the gravel area as there are alpines planted in the gravel
In a small garden it is important to make use of the vertical space so I have constructed the two arches over the gravel area and these have been planted with a variety of clematis. These were only planted this year and I have chosen varieties that either flower late or have a long flowering period so there should be colour well into the Autumn.
The grass area is a mixture of micro clover and grass. Tiny clover plants form a mat just under the grass to give a number of benefits: the lawn stays green all year, the clover fixes nitrogen to feed the soil, its deep roots reduce the need for watering and it suppresses weeds, eliminating the need for weed killer. (It is also suitable for shady areas.)
This was created using planting troughs, I blocked the drainage holes with mortar to create these 3 small ponds. Even the smallest garden can house a water feature and it is one of the most important features in a wildlife friendly garden. It is home to many creatures and the birds drink from it and bathe in it. The pile of rocks in the centre provides a hiding place for wildlife.
In the main part of the garden there are two trees, chosen for their benefits to wildlife. Behind the seat in the far corner is a Mountain Ash (Sorbus discolor) planted in 2009. This provides blossom early in the year for insects, followed by bright red fruits for the birds and finally wonderful orange and red foliage in Autumn. In the other corner is a Double Red Hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata ‘Paul’s Scarlet’) planted in 2010. A Hawthorn tree has almost 150 dependent insect species that feed on its leaves or on the nectar from its blossom and the prickly branches will provide a safe nesting site for birds. In winter the birds can feed off the haws. Below the Hawthorn are some ferns and a woodpile (Woodland Habitat).
Humans do need a bit of space too but this seating area has been soften by planting Thyme between the slabs. Not only does this soften the appearance of the stone but it also provides colour in early summer and can survive being walked on! Behind the seat is a large piece of dead wood. This provides a habitat for wood boring insects and Fungi. At the very back, in the corner is another pile of stones placed with wildlife in mind. Also note the two fan-trained apple trees growing in the corner behind the seat.
The planting in the garden is varied and dense. In the depth of Winter the Jasminum nudilorum (winter jasmine) on the back fence gives a colourful display of yellow flowers and snowdrops appear in the lawn.
In early Spring the Helleborous flowers accompanied by primulas, bergenia, and a multitude of Spring bulbs in the borders and in pots. The Chaenomeles Madame Butterfly (Japanese Quince) beside the back door flowers profusely. Then, as the daffodils die away a glorious display of Purple Prince tulips appear, the apple blossom is out, pots and baskets are filled with pansies and auriculas are displayed in individual pots on the step. Late Spring and as the tulip petals fall the Purple Sensation Alliums burst into life and the tall spires of lupins stand out against the first clematis (Miss Bateman).
The aquilegia and antirrhinums start to flower around mid May and the gravel area is brought to life with flowering alpines. In Summer the garden is awash with colour as many of the perennials, clematis and climbing roses come into flower and the baskets and pots are overflowing with annuals. The garden is also alive with bees, butterflies and all sorts of insects, it can actually get quite noisy at times with all the buzzing!
By August the display is enhanced with lilies, achillea and liatris, to name but a few! Carrying the colour through to Autumn are rudbeckia, late flowering clematis, the repeat flowering climbing rose, and many of the perennials supplemented by apples, berries and haws.
In Winter interest is maintained by leaving the seed heads of the flowers for the birds, pots of skimmia are moved into view and winter pansies violas and ivy can be used in the baskets and pots.
Throughout The Seasons
Before, During and After
Sadly, although I recovered well from my cancer treatment, I fell ill again in 2012 with a virus and I never recovered. I was forced to sell my home and leave my beautiful garden. I now live in a static caravan but do still grow my own fruit and vegetables in raised beds.
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If you are outside the UK then I would urge you to seek out eco-friendly products as often as possible and do your bit to make a difference to the future of our world.
Just one of the range of pond care products that you will find on the website. Take a look HERE
The perfect gift box for gardeners or non gardeners! Also available as individual tins.
Find it HERE
Available in two widths. Protect your plants from slugs without hurting them.
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