Barlow Nurseries

Growers of trees, shrubs and hardy herbaceous perennial garden plants near Newport, Shropshire

Archive for the ‘Garden development’ Category

Potager progress

Tuesday June 22nd 2010

It’s been a while since our embryonic veg garden appeared on the blog (in the bleak mid-winter actually) so here’s a picture showing where we’re at right now.   We managed to get 3 of the 4 beds we’d planned dug out – the final bed can only be installed after we’ve dug out several tree roots, and shifted a few tonnes of soil to level the area into which it will extend (just out of shot in the pic) so that’s a job for the autumn.

One bed short of a veg plot

One bed short of a rotation

In the meantime we’ve planted raspberries (summer and autumn varieties) a loganberry, winberry, potatoes (pink fir apple, because we love the idea of maincrop spuds which taste like first earlies) courgettes, broad beans, french beans, runner beans, leeks, radishes, parsnips and beetroot. And in other parts of the garden – butternut squash, garlic, blueberries, all sorts of salad leaves, rhubarb, red currants, gooseberries, tomatoes (5 different varieties) cucumbers, sweet peppers, chili peppers, carrots, more parsnips (we like parsnips!) and salad onions (which last forever – we’re still picking a batch we sowed in the polytunnel about this time last year).

Does that count as self-sufficient?   No, nowhere near, but it’s wonderful to be able to supplement our diet with really local food, which we can eat within minutes of it being picked, and it really doesn’t involve very much effort.

We haven’t suffered too many set backs (yet?).   Our only real challenge so far has been to keep the pigeons off the newly planted runner bean plants – the little devils shredded virtually every leaf as soon as they were planted out a few weeks ago.  We solved the problem by wrapping the whole bean pole construction in fleece for a couple of weeks, until the plants had climbed out of reach (we’re not saying our pigeons are lazy, but they’re showing absolutely no interest in the leaves now that access to them involves actual effort on their part).

OK, we are saying our pigeons are lazy.  And fat.  They’re the B52’s of the bird world (in the sense that you watch them trundling towards take-off, and just can’t help thinking “that’s not going to happen…”).

And the blackbirds think the pigeons are fat too – we’re sure they’re singing “who ate all the pies” when the pigeons belly-flop onto the lawn….

Growth and colour at last!

Wednesday June 9th 2010

And they're off....

It’s been a long time coming, but finally, after the longest coldest, and maybe driest spring for ages, we’ve had a decent period of warm and wet weather, and stuff is growing at last.

Activity on the nursery has concentrated our minds away from the garden for the last few weeks, so it was almost a surprise to walk through the garden last evening, and see how much it’s changed.

It’s still some way off its blousy mid-summer best of course, but it’s reassuring to see the seasonal progression somewhere near on-track, and to be able to look forward to the glories still to come.

The planting in the foreground is our “just-outside-the-back-door” potager, with herbs, garlic, variegated yellow rocket, and just getting their heads into shot, blueberries (this year we have enviromesh ready to confound the blackbirds!).

Off in the distant right of the shot you can just about make out the lozenge borders (still unplanted) with our new, and growing very nicely, yew hedge down the middle.

Spring….? V.2

Tuesday February 16th 2010


Well, maybe not then.

Taken just a few hours after the photo in our last post, this illustrates just how capricious our weather can be, and that the climate gods clearly aren’t looking to loose their grip on winter any time soon.

So guerilla gardening it is then – but not nipping out after dark to covertly plant up urban roundabouts, we’re going to have to nip out when the weather gods are taking a nap, and garden when we can.

Spring …. ?

Tuesday February 16th 2010

Well, maybe.    It’s still damn cold out there, but at last we’ve had a few dry and at least partly sunny days, which have allowed us to stick a couple of tentative toes outside.

We’re weeks behind where we’d hoped to have been by now;  we’ve grown used to mild winters when we’ve been able to garden pretty much continuously, and this years extended bittter cold and snowy weather has rather taken the wind from our sails.   The nursery keeps us occupied full time from Spring to Autumn, leaving only time for routine gardening for those 9 months, so we have to squeeze the structural work (which includes our currently 15 year old project to refurbish our house) into the 3 winter months.   And this year, for both family and meteorological reasons, it just hasn’t happened.

So the merest hint of sun has encouraged us to re-acquaint ourselves with spade and fork, and GET SOME WORK DONE!

And so….the side garden has had a few more hours attention, and the potager area is starting to take shape.   We’ve both felled and burned the last few trees so there’s considerably more light getting in now.   Hopefully, that’ll improve the grass (or rather encourage some to grow – the green stuff on the ground is currently mostly moss) and should give our fruit and veg enough sunshine to thrive.

Mmmm, the taste of summer.....

Mmmm, the taste of summer.....

And the turf stripping spade has been out again.  If we were really smart we’d plan all our turf stripping for one day and hire a machine, but we’re not that clever, we garden spontaneously, and Nick’s back takes the strain.   And as you can see from the picture, the first of the beds has been dug, post and wire supports have been installed, and the soft fruit is going in (summer raspberries at one end, a single loganberry in the middle, and autumn raspberries at the other end).

This is nostalgia gardening for Nick – there was a row of raspberries in his childhood garden in Hastings, and they were always a highlight of his summer diet, so this is something of a trip down memory lane (I wonder if these will taste as sweet?).

We’ll devise some means of keeping the pesky bird population off the crop later!

The canes and string in the foreground mark the second, as yet undug bed, and that should start to take shape shortly (and will house runner, broad and french beans, courgettes, lettuce, radish, and no doubt a few other veg plot staples). We want to grow butternut squash again, but fear they’ll outgrow these modest 4 ft wide beds, so we’re ruminating on that one.

They are 4 ft wide for a reason – we seem to remember that was the late great Geoff Hamilton’s preferred raised bed width (so you could work without having to stand on the soil) and it seemed sensible to have conversion to raised beds up our sleeve as a future project. Probably a long-time-in-the-future project.

And yes, we remember Toby Buckland getting a beating on the beeb message boards when he encouraged Sara Cox to plant veg in an area of newly stripped turf in her garden…but this will be the fourth time we’ve done it here, and it’s been fine every time so far….

Side garden, progress report

Wednesday December 23rd 2009
Down and out

Down and out

We promised an “after” picture when we started project lumberjack in the side garden but as its not quite in an “after” state yet, this is by way of a “nearly there” picture.

As you’ll see from the photo, most of the trees have moved from vertical to horizontal, and the bits that aren’t suitable for the log burner (all the bits in the top photo) will soon be history, as we warm a winter day with a beast of a bonfire.

The big conifer in the “before” picture actually yielded very little useable fuel – conifers don’t make great fuel anyway, but we’re not going to waste it – and the second picture shows the logs from it that’ll go into store to season for next winter.
Most of the tree was thin branches, and these are destined for the bonfire.

Next yars winter warmer

Next years winter warmers

There are a few more small trees to fell before the clearance is complete (on the extreme left of the first photo) so we’ve got a day or two of good winter warming jobs to tackle in the next few days.

What shall we call these then?

Friday November 27th 2009

Berryfields had its long borders, Sissinghurst has its white garden, Monty Don has his Jewel garden, even Barlow Nurseries has its Lychgate borders….everything needs a name.   So what shall we call these?

The expanse of grass separating the Lychgate from the still-work-in-progress pool clearly needed some enlivening, so one cold day a couple of weeks ago Nick set-to with string, tape measure, and spade, and came up with….these.

What do they look like to you?

What do they look like to you?

There is a plan – we’re going to plant a yew hedge down the middle of both beds, running parallel with the Lychgate borders, and each side of the borders will then be planted up with a mix of shrubs and herbaceous perennials (probably).   The borders run east-west, so the new hedge will create beds with very distinct characteristics: one side will face due north, the other due south, so plant selection will be critical.

The borders were planned to create vistas – viewed from the house (where the camera was for this photo) there will be a view along mixed borders to the oak tree focal point at the end;  looking through the Lychgate there’ll be a view of the pool, framed through the “ends” of each of the new borders, just demanding that the viewer walks through to explore….

But what shall we call them?   In their current virgin state we’re haunted by their shape – there’s a serious risk that they’ll forever be “the lozenge borders”.   But hopefully, we’ll have a better idea.

Chainsaw Charlie

Tuesday November 3rd 2009

We’re still working on the pool…..but you can’t spend your entire life wheeling barrows of soil around the place, so for a bit of light relief, we’ve been giving the side garden some attention.

There’s nothing there really, just lawn, and an odd collection of trees and shrubs around the perimeter – mostly self sown alder, hawthorn, and hollies.   We remember noticing the hollies as tiny seedlings when we moved in; boy how they’ve grown!   The alder and hawthorn must pre-date our arrival here by a decade or two!

There’s also a little straggly thicket of what we assume is a few years worth of Christmas trees which one of the previous residents couldn’t bear to throw way, but which now do little more than demonstrate that after a couple of weeks in a centrally heated home, the best place for a christmas tree is the municipal tip.

We’ve also had a bit of a rabbit problem in the garden this year, and although the cat has sorted it for us, their burrow was cunningly concealed right under the clump of holly.  We don’t want any new bunnies moving in, so we need to remove their cover!

Sorry guys, its time to go

Sorry guys, its time to go

We plan to re-design the garden around “sharing” the view of the field beyond, and the chainsaw has had an outing.   There’s one crab (also self sown we assume) which is actually in the field next door so that will stay, but other than that, they’re all coming down!   The very large conifer in the picture is a bit beyond Nick’s felling ability (and is big and heavy enough to do serious damage were it to land in the wrong place) so we’re calling on professional help for that one, but soon expect to be enjoying a substantial bonfire, and a much changed view!

An “after” picture will follow in due course….!

Pond digging progress…

Friday October 2nd 2009

I’m not sure exactly what jobs the seven dwarfs did in the Snow White story, but  I seem to remember it involved lots of enthusiastic wielding of pick axes and wheelbarrows, and there were seven of them, so if anybody knows where they can be contacted, we’ve got just the job…..

Do we have to move ALL that.....

Do we have to move ALL that.....

The mechanical assistance (thank you Mr Caterpillar) has done its job now and left the scene;  virtually all the digging out is done – there’s a bit of scraping and levelling to do to get the bottom right, but the structure of the hole is established.   Unfortunately (and this is where seven enthusiastic manual workers would come in handy) we now have to distribute and grade the spoil around the garden.   About 20 tonnes we guess, and just spades, and wheelbarrows, and two people to do it.

But we’re not outfaced!  We’ll pace ourselves, and do an hour or two each day until its done (Nick was imobilised for a few weeks in the Spring having pulled a muscle in his back, and is NOT going back there, so softly softly is the motto!).

Meanwhile, Louise takes much delight in showing customers “the new hole that Nick’s dug in the garden”.  Mostly their reactions are limited to a polite “its a good size isn’t it!”.  We just hope that isn’t code for “Jeez you guys are crazy, that’s bloomin HUGE!”

And we hope that isn’t the expression that springs to mind when we see the quote for the butyl liner.

There’s a hole in my garden…

Wednesday September 16th 2009

Pool digging, end day 1

After a few days hiatus in which life, and the sordid business of earning a living intervened, we’re back on the garden pool project, and we’ve been digging today.   We’re using as large a digger as we could get through the Lych Gate (the only entrance to the garden) but it’s dawning on us now that this really is quite a big pond.   Even with some really very nice mechanical assistance (Caterpillar model 301.6C for the digger geeks amongst you) it’s going to take a few days.

Our biggest worry now is that the spoil produced isn’t actually going to be enough to contour all the surrounding borders in the way we’d planned, and we might have to buy some extra topsoil…

We made a garden…..

Monday September 7th 2009

Okay, we may not be up to the literary or gardening standards of Margery Fish, but we’re going through a similar process, and we’re sure she won’t mind us borrowing her muse….

So here we go, autumn project in-play, and the garden development begins with marking out the new borders, and the new pool.  The picture shows a length of ever reliable Tricoflex hose marking out the perimeter of our new water feature.   All we need now is a man with a mini-digger, and we’re off!

Our embryonic garden pool

Our embryonic garden pool

The pool will be about 3 feet deep in the middle, with ledges around the edge about 18 inches wide and deep, so we’ll have capacity for both shallow and deep water aquatic plants.   A good proportion of the water will be in the shade of the adjacent weeping willow, and with a few strategically placed water lillies to shade the depths still further, we’re hoping to avoid the dreaded pea soup syndrome with which so many garden ponds  seem to suffer.   Watch this space!

The excavated soil will be used to grade the contours of the surrounding garden, and re-bury some of the willow roots which are currently half exposed, so we’re hoping not to have to move too much soil too far.

There’ll be a bog garden on the side of the pool opposite the willow, approximately in the area where you can currently see the remains of a decades worth of bonfires, with a nice big Gunnera, and a few other choice marginals around it, and then more conventional shrub and herbaceous plantings around that.

A bit of decking and a jetty…hmmm, still in development…

The mounds of foiliage showing in the bottom right of the photo are butternut squash, probably the most vigorous veg we’ve ever grown – each plant is already consuming about 4 square metres of ground, and they’re still growing.   This area was designated “temporary veg plot” while the pool plan was hatched.   This area, and the area currently down to grass between this and the soon-to-be bog garden will be planted up with a good wide shrub and perennial border.   Next season the veg will move to their permanent home in an area off to the right of the picture (more of which later – probably much later).

Our soil is phenomenally free draining sand (dig down 18 inches and it really is pure orange building sand) so we’re going to have to use a butyl liner – lets hope we don’t regret our decision to have a “good sized” pool when we come to buy that!

Oh, and the new borders mentioned above are out of the picture to the left.   But that’s for another day.

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