A Month Of Gardening

Tidying up the garden to begin the process of re-wilding it.

We spent a lot of time in July preparing the garden for the next stage of the restoration. Having successfully defeated most of the ground elder - although we do find tiny new shoots now and again - it was time to make the area more wildlife friendly.

The problem with our house is that it was built in the 1920's - this was a time when hedges were planted, but gardens were separated by the hideous plastic coated metal fences that have been long-associated with this type of housing. The issue with this is that, as well as being less than aesthetically pleasing, they make it difficult for wildlife - specifically birds. In most houses of this period it has been left in place while the hedge grew through, up and around it. Birds like to use hedges for protection (and nesting in some places). When they are flying into the hedge and they encounter this, it is difficult for them. As such, they remember this and do not return. So, I spent a few days removing it.

It was very difficult indeed! At first I was going to cut it all up into tiny manageable pieces and carefully remove it all. I manage three pieces before I got sick of it! I ended up just ripping the rest out in one go, and caused a little bit of damage to the hedge in the process. That's ok though, as it will grow back and now birds can use it as intended! The picture above is what came out of the hedge, as well as something odd bits and pieces that the previous owners had dumped at the back of the garden.

A few days after we noticed our first baby robin! It's not a great photo as I was in the kitchen and only had my phone with me. I wanted a quick snap before it flew away. The white space at the bottom is actually the wall - it's a bit (a lot!) over-exposed so you could see the robin hiding under the bush.

A couple of days after that, we had our first juvenile blackbirds in the garden! I made a quick video of them sheltering under the bush and the tree.

About a week later, I decided to press ahead with a job I'd had to put off throughout the spring. If you look at the first photo, just behind the rhododendron bush, you will see a small tree. Actually, we believe it was originally a juniper bush which got out of hand, and was since trimmed into a tree by the previous owners. A pair of blackbirds decided to nest in it at the start of the year (they weren't the ones responsible for the two young birds in the video), so we had to wait until they left of their own devices. Once we were absolutely certain of this, we borrowed a tool from my parents...

I was so eager to git rid of the tree that I forgot to take a before and after photo, so below is an old photo of it.

Here is the stump which, despite looking small above ground, had a strong and extensive root system. It took me nearly two hours to remove it.

I also took a photo of just some of the bits that I'd removed. These are here because the garden bin was full. I put them onto the 'garden rubbish pile' at the back of the garden. It wasn't rubbish per-say, just anything left from gardening that I couldn't get in the bin at the time. Once the bin was emptied, I soon filled it up again!

Here is the area after I'd removed the tree (stump still in place when I took this photo).

It has made the garden look a lot bigger, which I'm happy about. It's an odd almost triangular shape, so the extra 'space' is an improvement. However, that's not my primary reason for removing the tree. Although it is a great place for birds to nest and shelter, that is all it is - and there are plenty of other, better options very nearby. Despite being a small tree, it takes a huge amount of nutrients and water from the soil. It's so bad that everything else around it is struggling to grow. It adds a lot of shade to this part of the garden, which just compounds the problem. Additionally, the part of the hedge next to it is now being encroached upon, to the extent that it is completely bare where the tree blocks the growth. In order to improve the garden and enhance the bio-diversity, it needed to go.

I'm sure that this small thing will help towards restoring the garden to a place which is far better for species diversity. The biggest problem I'll now have is that with the extra light and improved nutrient and water content of the soil, the ground elder will probably be back with a vengeance!

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