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Garden From Scratch - ALL ADVICE WELCOME!

 
Posts: 48
Location: South coast of England
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If I've put this post in the wrong section, please let me know!

I have a new garden (south coast of England) - see attached photo and diagram. And for more background have a look at my website (https://mygardenfromscratch.weebly.com/), although the gist is that I have this new garden and I need advice about what to do with it. There are loads of very specific threads on Permies.com, and I will use them in due course, but this post is about asking for some more general 'steers' and advice, e.g. "Definitely think about doing x, y, z,", "Definitely try to avoid doing x, y, z,". The garden is SE facing, but as you can see from one of the attached photos, there are three-storey terraced houses along the end of the garden, which limits the amount of direct sunlight outside of the summer.

Any comments on the following would be gratefully received:


- Can such a small garden provide any useful wildlife habitat? If yes, what would be most suitable (i.e. which species should I be trying to cater for)? This row of gardens is surrounded by roads on all sides, although it is very popular with foxes! I'm wondering what ratio of wildlife habitat to food-growing areas I should aim for. Perhaps the most 'eco-friendly' approach is to maximise food-growing if the garden is not very useful for wildlife?

- Ponds/boggy areas without buying a pond liner? This is probably a stupid question but I'm wondering how easy it is to create a small pond without a liner. I used a rubber liner for the pond in my last garden but it was difficult to buy the right size and I ended up with a lot of leftover liner which seemed very wasteful. Hence I was wondering what I could create without a liner this time (perhaps nothing which wouldn't be empty of water most of the time!)?

- Soil. The garden is mostly patchy lawn at the moment (the attached photo is a few months old and the grass is patchier in mid winter). I read a bit about turf strippers, but is there a chance that I will do more harm than good by pulling up the turf (I mean ecologically rather than aesthetically)? Could I remove small patches of grass/turf instead, to try and achieve more plant variety by sowing and/or encouraging colonisation by wild flowers/grasses? Or is the soil likely to be too nutrient rich for wild plants to establish? I don't know what the previous owner did/didn't do specifically to the garden, but a neighbour said it was previoulsy overgrown with dogs allowed to run freely. Then I think new turf was laid before I bought the flat - and that turf became overgrown before I moved in (I have since strimmed it to the current level).

- Edible perennials. Any advice on this, please! Which ones are easy to grow for beginners, which ones taste nice etc.? I'm thinking of starting with annuals in pots close to the back door onto the garden, but I want to plan where to plant edible perennials in the main (lawn) bit of the garden. I think I will need to use raised beds to limit damage from cats and foxes - of which there are many.

- Soil again. Am I aiming to enrich the soil (organically) in the raised beds, but doing the opposite in the areas of the garden where I want wild plants to grow? That might sound like a very basic question, but perhaps I've got my wires crossed after doing some research about wild plants but not really grasping it.

- Embodied energy/carbon: I tried to reuse/recycle as many materials as possible in my previous garden, but it's easy to start buying loads of things for a new garden (including plants). Advice on avoiding this and knowing when external input is a worthwhile trade-off would be helpful. For example, I feel like I should avoid importing soil to the garden, and exporting soil/turf - so tips on how to do this would be really useful. My current store/source of soil is under the turf. What could I use turf for if I decided to remove some of it? Could I make raised beds with it? A pond edge etc.?

- The only decision I've made so far is that I bought a plum tree - which hasn't been delivered yet. (Likely location marked on the attached diagram.)


It's January at the moment, but time flies and I'd like to start adding/encouraging more plants as Spring arrives. The garden looks quite miserable at the moment. I think I have a bit of anxiety about not coming up with a plan before Spring and then being overrun with weeds before I've decided what I'm doing with the garden. The soil is almost certainly full of weed seeds, and in the summer I had to spend quite a bit of time removing cleavers, bramble and bindweed.


Grateful for any info' and advice!

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G Prentice
Posts: 48
Location: South coast of England
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I've attached a photo looking at my flat from the garden, just in case it's helpful in any way.
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gardener
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Location: South of Capricorn
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there are a lot of questions to respond to here, so i am going to focus on one: can you increase wildlife diversity in such a small space? I believe you definitely can.
But because of your situation, I think your wildlife will be airborne. I have a tiny yard I've turned into a garden and we get some great bird and insect life. It's pollinator central here, and I do occasionally see rarities. I try to attract the animals I know live in nearby reserves, by providing the food and the habitat they prefer. I don't know what you have, but in my case trees with berries attract fruit-eating birds, flowers attract hummingbirds, wood and walls with holes attract carpenter bees, etc. These days I saw wild canaries eating the sorghum seeds in the garden. A tree will be a great refuge. I imagine you could do the same for insects with scarlet runner beans or whatever works well to attract bees where you are.
 
pollinator
Posts: 487
Location: Chicago
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What a fun project starting from scratch!  I agree that you can definitely support wildlife in such a space.  I have a yard not too much larger, and after nearly a decade see a lot of wildlife.

One of the most beneficial things that I have noticed for the wildlife here is leaving a good corridor of leaf litter and brush along the fence line. I have planted small fruit trees, shrubs, and native perennials along my side of neighbors' 6ft privacy fence. fallen leaves, branch trimmings, and other brush get chucked behind the plants along the fence, and perennial plants left standing over winter to provide homes for insects. In spring, this brushy area is filled with migratory birds sifting through the leaf litter for larvae, insects, fallen seeds, etc.  It looks like you already have some high places for birds to hide in the palm and the adjoining ivy wall, so if you build some attractive middle and ground layers with shrubs and brush this could be a real bird haven.

I do get some mammals in the brushy areas also, though our mammalian life here in central U.S. is much different that yours, I believe.  We have a lot of tree dwellers--raccoons, opposums, squirrels. Do you have hedgehogs in the neighborhood?  
 
pollinator
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I'd start with mulch for garden beds and slide my compostables under it as I go. I recommend Charles Dowding for no-dig videos, and he's in Britain.

No-Dig start.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0LH6-w57Slw

Small garden:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=aUMbt6tLAd0
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6kUnRJOzs3g

I'd start with that, building soil and growing organic matter while figuring out the rest.


 
pollinator
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Before I did anything with a small place I would draw a plan.

Where will you walk. That’s what I plan out first.

Where will you sit to view the garden and what do you want to see from there.

What type of planters or are you planting all in ground.

What type of plants are important and where specifically are they going first.

Go to your windows or areas where you will view the garden.  What do you want to see?

Remember as you walk and view how some things are tall and some short.  Plan accordingly.

It’s VERY EASY to mess up a small space without a plan
 
G Prentice
Posts: 48
Location: South coast of England
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Tereza Okava wrote:there are a lot of questions to respond to here, so i am going to focus on one: can you increase wildlife diversity in such a small space? I believe you definitely can.
But because of your situation, I think your wildlife will be airborne. I have a tiny yard I've turned into a garden and we get some great bird and insect life. It's pollinator central here, and I do occasionally see rarities. I try to attract the animals I know live in nearby reserves, by providing the food and the habitat they prefer. I don't know what you have, but in my case trees with berries attract fruit-eating birds, flowers attract hummingbirds, wood and walls with holes attract carpenter bees, etc. These days I saw wild canaries eating the sorghum seeds in the garden. A tree will be a great refuge. I imagine you could do the same for insects with scarlet runner beans or whatever works well to attract bees where you are.



Thanks! I'll look into what plants grow well in the wild locally - it might give me some ideas/inspiration. I would definitely like to attract birds and pollinators. I have a bird feeder at the moment, but it honestly hasn't had one bird land on it in the couple of months that it has been there, so I've got some work to do!
 
G Prentice
Posts: 48
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Mk Neal wrote:What a fun project starting from scratch!  I agree that you can definitely support wildlife in such a space.  I have a yard not too much larger, and after nearly a decade see a lot of wildlife.

One of the most beneficial things that I have noticed for the wildlife here is leaving a good corridor of leaf litter and brush along the fence line. I have planted small fruit trees, shrubs, and native perennials along my side of neighbors' 6ft privacy fence. fallen leaves, branch trimmings, and other brush get chucked behind the plants along the fence, and perennial plants left standing over winter to provide homes for insects. In spring, this brushy area is filled with migratory birds sifting through the leaf litter for larvae, insects, fallen seeds, etc.  It looks like you already have some high places for birds to hide in the palm and the adjoining ivy wall, so if you build some attractive middle and ground layers with shrubs and brush this could be a real bird haven.

I do get some mammals in the brushy areas also, though our mammalian life here in central U.S. is much different that yours, I believe.  We have a lot of tree dwellers--raccoons, opposums, squirrels. Do you have hedgehogs in the neighborhood?  



Thanks for your comments. Hedgehogs are really struggling in the UK, and what used to be a very common species isn't any longer, unfortunately. I think maybe gardens are too tidy these days for hedgehogs, and people tend to put up fences with no gaps underneath them instead of using hedges as barriers.

I'm pleased to not have any squirrels near me - they are relentless at attacking bird feeders! There aren't any proper trees on my side of the row of gardens, so there's no where for them to live.
 
G Prentice
Posts: 48
Location: South coast of England
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Bihai Il wrote:I'd start with mulch for garden beds and slide my compostables under it as I go. I recommend Charles Dowding for no-dig videos, and he's in Britain.

No-Dig start.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0LH6-w57Slw

Small garden:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=aUMbt6tLAd0
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6kUnRJOzs3g

I'd start with that, building soil and growing organic matter while figuring out the rest.




Thanks - I'll check out the videos!
 
G Prentice
Posts: 48
Location: South coast of England
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Janet Reed wrote:Before I did anything with a small place I would draw a plan.

Where will you walk. That’s what I plan out first.

Where will you sit to view the garden and what do you want to see from there.

What type of planters or are you planting all in ground.

What type of plants are important and where specifically are they going first.

Go to your windows or areas where you will view the garden.  What do you want to see?

Remember as you walk and view how some things are tall and some short.  Plan accordingly.

It’s VERY EASY to mess up a small space without a plan




Thank you, some very useful tips! I will definitely do a plan, but I'm still at the 'deciding what to put in the plan' stage!
 
G Prentice
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A quick addition to this post as there is a storm here and two of the 6ft fence panels on the left have just fallen down! I'm tempted not to replace them and just put some shrubs there. Ideally, they should be evergreen as it will be more private, so any suggestions for UK native evergreen shrubs which grow fairly quickly to about 6ft? Something good for wildlife, preferably.
 
pollinator
Posts: 220
Location: Eilean a' Cheo
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Hi,
It's always fun playing fantasy gardens, so thanks for letting us share yours!
A few thoughts for you.
I did a quick search on the ferns website for hedging plants for you.  My first search turned up no answers, but from the second the one that stood out was Tree lupin (lupinus arboreus).  It wasn't something that sprung to mind, but may actually be worth considering.  Fast growing, nitrogen fixing, doesn't mind the seaside, poor soil or (I'm guessing) alkaline soil, has pleasant flowers and is evergreen.  The disadvantage may be that it tend to be a bit sprawling, not easily pruned to a neat hedge and short lived.  I think it will grow from seed quite quickly.  My first thought was holly, but that isn't very quick growing.  Ditto yew.  Both make nice neat dense hedges given time and pruning...Other plants you could consider are Eleagnus, not native, but nitrogen fixing again.  There are selections with improved fruit, which are really quite nice.
Have a think about how big your plum tree will grow.  The dwarfing rootstocks are not always that dwarfing, and the tree will want space for it's roots as well.  I would think about moving it a bit further away from the wall.
Wildlife will come if you provide habitat and food for them and don't kill them.
A pond doesn't need to be large or even in the ground.  I had quite a nice pond in a half barrel in a previous garden.  Just make sure whatever gets in can get out, and don't put fish in it.  You probably will need some sort of liner or container though.
I think in your area your subsoil will be chalk, so the soil is likely to be alkaline.  I wouldn't strip the turf, particularly if there is much recent dog poo under there!  You could get a soil testing kit.  You can get ones that will give you several soil pH and main NPK fertility measurements for about £25 I think.  If you want the grass area, then with the brambles and bindweed likely to come back, I would just mow for a few years on a high setting.  You could spot-plant things like cowslips and snowdrops, or just see what arrives.  It sounds like you really fancy a wild flower meadow.  I think the RHS gives a simple explanation that may clarify these for you.
Edible perennials: I can recommend Hablitzia tamnoides; a climber with edible leaves like spinach but less bitter, and sprays of white flowers.  For me it doesn't grow too well (my soil is very acid)  It may find it a bit warm with you, so try it in a shady corner.  Good king Henry (Chenopodium bonus henricus) has slightly bitter greens, but I quite like it, and again likes it shady, and is a good ground cover. Perennial kales may be more palatable, and you could also try seakale, which should like your area well.  There are several little nurseries specialising in edible perennials in the UK.  I like backyard larder, incredible vegetables and ART, also chiltern seeds for growing from seed.
As regards soil, I personally would avoid importing soil as such, you don't know what nasties might come along with it.  The turf will try to regrow unless covered with light excluding material.  See if you can get hold of Patrick Whitefield's "How to make a forest garden" or Martin Crawford's "creating a forest garden"  both are really good on establishment and include tables of useful plants for different situations.
Talk to your neighbours and have a look what they are growing.  Many gardeners are happy to give away cuttings and often have orphan plants looking for a home.  Now is a good time of year to take cuttings from fruit bushes for example.
Have fun!

 
G Prentice
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Thanks do much! A lot to think about. And holly will definitely feature somewhere - I love it
 
pollinator
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What an adventure! I love Nancy's answer, so comprehensive.

Our experience starting from scratch with a small garden north of London, which had nothing but patchy lawn when I moved in, facing north and west which means no winter sun at all and hard baked over-heated clay in summer! Ours also had no fence and local kids were used to cutting across the garden to get to the footpath that runs along one side. At the time fences weren't allowed here, so I started skimming about 18" of the turf around the boundary and planted a rosa rugosa hedge. Wonderful from spring to autumn, but a mass of spiky bare sticks in winter. The flowers are lovely and useful, the hips are huge.

Over time, more things appeared in the hedge, self-sown elderberries, hazelnuts grown from seed, raspberries, thornless blackberries, a cherry tree and an apple tree, which all bear heavily most years. Blueberries thrive in big pots in semi-shade on the east side of the hedge. At ground level, strawberries, claytonia, purslane, lemon balm, wild rocket, and other herbs and salady things self-seed where they want.

We never saw a bird here when I first moved in. Now, we have many. Sparrows, blackbirds and robins all nest and raise their young here, plus many other species visit. Hedgehogs are regular visitors.

For the pond - we did use a pond liner. But if your soil is clay, a pubbled clay pond/bog garden may work.

There are a few places in the UK specialising in perennial food plants.  I've bought from the Backyard Larder: https://backyardlarder.co.uk/ and their plants are good. A small range, but she provides loads of informationm on the plants she grows and sells. I haven't purchased from this nursery yet, but they have some amazing plants: https://www.korewildfruitnursery.co.uk/  Your best option for local plants and info could be to check Facebook for a local permaculture or wildlife gardening group.
 
pollinator
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Hello, I lived in Suxxex during 1970- 1971. Theres some things I miss from there. One trick I learned here is to save a rusty old sheet of steel, toss some rocks on the ground then lay the steel on top. The steel and rocks heat up fast in the sun and garter snakes and lizards love it.
 
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Nice! You are a Permaculturist! No need for expensive pond liners etc.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAaHB_wqpIA&list=PLWcGSYiimOLyrjnfvY5Fe7nqvQpZrkwG2&index=10
I'm in Canada. This guy's vids are fantastic!
Good Luck
 
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It must be so interesting to create a garden from scratch, I would love the freedom but realistically I would probably struggle with overwhelm and not actually do anything. lol.

I would suggest you consider if you want an outside "seating area" and how big a space that would need to be.

You can totally make a pond without a liner if you can get hold of clay, but depending on whereabouts on the south coast you are it might not be easy to get hold of. Keep an eye on freecycle or FB marketplace and see if anyone has some liner going spare, as you are right it is never the size you need. Or if you were going for something more "permanent" you can concrete the bottom of the pond to make it waterproof.

I would suggest that the birds are not coming to your feeder because there isn't much cover for them, the smaller ones tend to want to flit from a hedge/bush to the feeder and back again to keep themselves out of harm's way for as long as possible.
Considering perennial vegetables they are good but don't overlook fruit like strawberries with keep on multiplying and are good ground cover and perennial herbs.

And start some form of composting system now even if you haven't finalized your garden plan it is a good place to start creating extra biomass for the garden.
 
Chris McCullough
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I was having a little artistic moment (go ahead, laugh!) and made a Hügelkultur poster for a potting shed.  You can grab it and use it any old way you want . . . it can be shrunk, framed, laminated, or used as a placemat.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1kdK_fKMWXIQm7nNvjhjO7VxE66ZEYvsh/view?usp=sharing
 
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Hi G! Nice project you've got there. A few thoughts:

It might be nice to build some sort of frame leaning onto the wall, and grow climbing plants there. If you want something that makes it look nice quickly you could go for herbaceous climbers, like the Hablitzia mentioned earlier, or hops. Both of these are not only pretty, but also brilliant perennial vegetables. The first shoots of hops in the spring are very tasty boiled, and of course you can use the flowers to make beer, if you're into that. Woody climbers that are also edible would be different kiwi species, Schisandra, and, of course, grapes. A wall covered in climbing plants might also help make your garden more hospitable to birds by giving them some cover.

Regarding your question about whether the soil is too rich in nutrients to establish wild plants, that depends entirely on which ones you want. Since all plants are wild "by default" and a natural landscape contains a spectrum of soil types, there are wild plants for all soil types. Of course, a lot of these are categorized as "weeds", especially the ones that like soil rich in nutrients and loads of sun (what you'll get in agricultural areas). While you might not want tons of these, some are still worth considering for a small corner of the garden, especially if you want to attract some wildlife. Stinging nettles, for example, are both a very nice wild (and perennial) vegetable, and a key species for insect life (butterflies in particular). The obvious drawback is that they sting you, but there are apparently stingless varieties. I don't know how to get them, but it might be worth a shot. Nettles like any soil, as long as there are loads of nitrogen in it. Another nice edible, and quite beautiful, "weed" is the creeping bellflower, Campanula rapunculoides. The whole plant is edible, the leaves are very nice stir-fried, the flowers are good in salads (adding some colour) and the tubers are super tasty boiled and eaten with butter. The creeping bellflower is quite aggressive, though, so planting it might not be a great idea if you want garden beds. However, it has a larger relative, giant bellflower (Campanula latifolia) that's not at all as aggressive, and supposedly usable in the same way as its marauding cousin (at least the above-ground parts, I haven't heard any first-hand report on the taste of the roots yet, but will try when I get the chance) A bonus feature of C. latifolia is that it tolerates a lot of shade, so it would probably not have any problem sticking around even if you plant a lot of trees. Bellflowers in general are also good insect plants, I believe. Oh, and another fun thing about weeds: If your cleavers won't die, you can gather the seeds, roast them and use them as coffee substitute. It tastes quite similar to coffee, and as I understand it, it even contains a bit of caffeine (cleavers are in the same family as the coffee bush).

To improve the soil, it might be a good idea to see which of your neighbors have lawns and/or large trees on their properties, and ask if they have cut grass and piles of leaves they want to get rid of. This could be used as mulch to improve your garden's soil, maybe combined with twigs and branches pruned from your trees (or your neighbors') If your soil is compact, it might be a good idea to loosen it a bit with a pitchfork or such (without turning it) just before you apply the mulch. If you make the layer of mulch thick enough, it will wipe out whatever plants are under it (more or less, at least) and save a lot of effort weeding.

Good luck!
 
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Garden tips a la me:

Put in you big items first.  Trees and shrubs.  Build the skeleton first.  Work out from there.

Start small.  Once you have  your design, go for just one bed.  It takes way more energy and effort than you expect.

If you're doing a raised bed, kill the grass first otherwise you'll just end up with raised bed of grass.  Cardboard, newspaper, compost and black plastic are your friends in this.  Veggies and the like don't compete well with grass.

Pay attention to drainage.  Don't put beds to close too the house.  I once had to rip the entire back wall off a house because the previous owners had put flower beds up against the wall.  Over time the beds got so deep that there was dirt directly against the wood siding.  We had termite damage all the way up to the roof rafters.  

 
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I am a bit in love with your starting point - that cabbage tree is gorgeous, and in a good looking spot. Native to Aotearoa/New Zealand, the Maori name is Ti kouka (said "tea COE ca" [COE rhymes with toe!])
 
G Prentice
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Thank you all for your input! I will be referring back to this thread for info' as my project progresses, so none of the tips will be overlooked.

You can see from the updated attached photo that the middle part of the fence has come down in a storm. I think that instead of replacing the fence i'll fill the gap with some sort of trellis and may be grow fruit against it.

You can also see in the photo that I have a small flower bed in the top-right corner (it has a white wall). I'm not really sure what to do it - any suggestions? I though it might make a good place for a water feature, but I'm not really keen to install an electric supply to power a pump. Do any of you have experience with solar powered pumps? Are they any good. I would like to create some sort of self-sustaining ecosystem in the garden, and I'm not sure that a water feature with a pump really fits that. Which brings me back to not knowing what to do with that flower bed. Do any plant species spring to mind that would like that spot? It's a shady corner and probably only gets direct sunlight in the middle of the summer.

(My garden is the one on the right in the photo.)


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gardener & hugelmaster
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I see a pretty flower bed or an earthworm ranch or a tiny greenhouse in that corner. Or possibly a rainwater collection barrel.
 
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Hi,

I had some fun drawing a suggestion for you. Hope you like it.
Filename: PLAN-SUGGESTION.pdf
File size: 225 Kbytes
plan-suggestion.jpg
[Thumbnail for plan-suggestion.jpg]
 
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Anything you do really will improve the current situation(aside from astroturfing everything) but if I were you I'd make several beds of market garden in the middel of the garden where it's more sunny, and worry about the rest of the garden later, maybe even next year.

Why? Since there will definitely come things to mind while taking care of the main part of the garden. With such little space, I'm sure it's an attractive idea to go ahead and plan every nook and cranny out, but if your idea is food production, soil health and plant diversity, I'd go with a market garden in the middle and fill in the rest later to support/beutify the main area that matter(the most sunny spot - don't leave all that precious sunlight space empty, only for the grass or huge paths to gobble up!)

I'd take out all of the fences if I were you, your neighbours fence is a better option when it comes to sunlight - you don't want your fence to completely shade your garden for half the day. If you're more keen to have privacy(which I can't see anybody having considering neighboring windows looking straight into your garden) I'd suggest trellises with beans, peas, fruit etc. gooseberry, cranberry, blueberry etc would do well. Also planting fruit trees to sit under will ive you much more privacy than these wooden fences.

Speaking of - you know what I would do with the fences? If they're not treated with chemicals, and it's allowed to do in your area, I'd make a huge bonfire from them inside a large soil pit and make some nice biochar.
That would fertilize your soil for the next thousand years!
 
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I'm still very much an amateur, but I can give a view on your questions.
- Can a small space add value for wildlife? Emphatically yes. For a small garden near houses I would aim for insects and birds. Creating lots of small mammal habitat may just encourage rats. Trees (as you planned) and ahrubs (especially thorny ones for protection) are great for birds. Blackbirds love picking through disturbed soil or woodchip as well, so just working the garden may attract them. Easiest thing for insects is get any plants in other than grass, and some flowering ones for pollinators. To a degree anything will work, but things like clover and dandelions in the grass are a very easy first step.

- can you make a pond without a liner? Yes, maybe. Look up puddles clay. The other option is to make container pond from an old sink, barrel etc. If they aren't already watertight you know the exact size for liners.

- soil. I wouldn't bother strippinf turf. Lay cardboard on top of the grass and mulch areas you want to plant. I'd you do dignit out stack the turf grass to grass and root to root and it'll decompose giving nice useable soil for raised beds etc.

- edible perennials. Easiest are probably berries like redcurrant, raspberry, wild strawberry etc. Leafy ones are possible, may e something like a hawthorn for hedging, bird habitat and edible young leaves.  

- soil again. You are probably thinking about wildflower meadows, which thrive better on poor soil because the grass competes too well especially on good soil. You can so use yellow rattle to suppress the grass. Some plants, like clover, thistles and dandelions will compete well.in a lawn area regardless.

- embodied energy/carbon. Grow what you can from seeds or cuttings you've taken. You can get cuttings from friends and neighbours usually with minimal drama. If you do buy plants try to find local nurseries to minimise transport. Avoid imported plants where possible because of the risks of importing diseases. Cuttings and seeds have the advantage of also generally avoiding importing pests like vine weevils. If you do buy plants get small ones. They usually establish better anyway.

It's an exciting project! You can make it a really lovely space. As you design, think about the sun, shade and rainfall each part gets. Get big, slow growers right by thinking carefully. Smaller or faster plants can be moved or regrown if they don't work out, so much easier to play with.
 
G Prentice
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Elanor Pog wrote:I am a bit in love with your starting point - that cabbage tree is gorgeous, and in a good looking spot. Native to Aotearoa/New Zealand, the Maori name is Ti kouka (said "tea COE ca" [COE rhymes with toe!])



Yes, I love it, too. I'm not sure that British wildlife is that interested in it, but wood pigeons eat the seeds from it (the New Zealand Pigeon likes them in New Zealand, apparently). The council has planted cabbage trees on the sea front here but they are battered by the prevailing wind off the sea and look very miserable!
 
G Prentice
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Abraham Palma wrote:Hi,

I had some fun drawing a suggestion for you. Hope you like it.



Very nice - thank you! I'm working on the design now and it has some of the features that you have included in yours :)
 
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Yaron Mor wrote:Anything you do really will improve the current situation(aside from astroturfing everything) but if I were you I'd make several beds of market garden in the middel of the garden where it's more sunny, and worry about the rest of the garden later, maybe even next year.

Why? Since there will definitely come things to mind while taking care of the main part of the garden. With such little space, I'm sure it's an attractive idea to go ahead and plan every nook and cranny out, but if your idea is food production, soil health and plant diversity, I'd go with a market garden in the middle and fill in the rest later to support/beutify the main area that matter(the most sunny spot - don't leave all that precious sunlight space empty, only for the grass or huge paths to gobble up!)

I'd take out all of the fences if I were you, your neighbours fence is a better option when it comes to sunlight - you don't want your fence to completely shade your garden for half the day. If you're more keen to have privacy(which I can't see anybody having considering neighboring windows looking straight into your garden) I'd suggest trellises with beans, peas, fruit etc. gooseberry, cranberry, blueberry etc would do well. Also planting fruit trees to sit under will ive you much more privacy than these wooden fences.

Speaking of - you know what I would do with the fences? If they're not treated with chemicals, and it's allowed to do in your area, I'd make a huge bonfire from them inside a large soil pit and make some nice biochar.
That would fertilize your soil for the next thousand years!



Thanks for the tips! I see your point about the fences, and whilst I don't love them, they aren't as problematic as you might think... what is left of the fence on the left-hand side doesn't block any light because the garden doesn't get any direct light from the east in the morning (the houses block it until the sun is at south-east direction). The fence on the right hand-side does block light, but it's my neighbour's fence and she wants to keep it, so I have to live with that. Thankfully, the garden still gets quite a lot of light, so it could be a lot worse.

I'm going to do another post in a minute with some thoughts/problems with the design process - which I'm currently trying to work on
 
G Prentice
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Just started a supplementary thread here: https://permies.com/t/158818/Planting-spring-onwards-coppice-suppliers
 
G Prentice
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Although, I haven't finished the garden design yet, at the moment I'm not planning to have annual veg in the main part of the garden. The main part will be a forest garden with a pond and some seating areas, and the annual veg will go in pots on the steps and on my kitchen window sill (see photos attached). After this year I might have a better idea of whether that will give me the quantity of annual veg that I want. I've got more space on the cement area which is adajcent to the grass, so I can put more veg there if I feel the need. But in the long-term I hope to put some sort of outhouse/green house on that cement area.
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Jonathan Cole
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One other thing to consider is that trees don't necessarily have to be tree shaped. There's a lot of options around training them. For instance, training you plum as a fan in front of the fence by the stairs (so the south-facing side if I am reading the plans right) would provide fruit and keep it flatter to the fence. That might then give you space for another tree where you had the possible tree marked, while ensuring your plum gets lots of sunshine and produces easily accessible fruit.

The current possible tree location may also shade the concrete area you were considering for a greenhouse, so keep that in mind. Will be more or less of an issue depending on the type of tree (so how dense the crown is), the height and the way you prune it.
 
G Prentice
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Jonathan Cole wrote:One other thing to consider is that trees don't necessarily have to be tree shaped. There's a lot of options around training them. For instance, training you plum as a fan in front of the fence by the stairs (so the south-facing side if I am reading the plans right) would provide fruit and keep it flatter to the fence. That might then give you space for another tree where you had the possible tree marked, while ensuring your plum gets lots of sunshine and produces easily accessible fruit.

The current possible tree location may also shade the concrete area you were considering for a greenhouse, so keep that in mind. Will be more or less of an issue depending on the type of tree (so how dense the crown is), the height and the way you prune it.



Yes, I need to think about the location of the tree-shaped trees carefully to avoid too much shading. The possible location marked on the diagram is roughly where I was thinking of having a tree-shaped tree (the biggest tree in the garden), but I definitely intend to have trained/espalier trees and shrubs elsewhere - especially along the left-hand fence. I'm hoping that I'll get good crops of fruit on that side as it gets the most light. I will also have some trees/shrubs away from the fence around the rest of the garden, but I'll either choose small varieties or they'll be pruned to avoid them getting too high. I haven't planned the forest garden layers in any detail yet - I'm currently thinking about where I want the seating areas and pond to be, and view lines from my flat's windows.
 
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Another question about mulching...

If I'm eventually going to replant the whole garden, should I be laying the sheet mulch now to get the process started? Although the garden currently consists of a rather ugly mix of couch grass lawn, it's also the only life that the garden currently has and so I feel a bit reluctant to start killing that, too! But ultimately, if I will need to sheet mulch it all to plant my forest garden, perhaps i need to stop being precious about it and just get on with the sheet mulching now??? I haven't finished the design of the forest garden yet, but I assume that I will have to get rid of the current lawn before planting it, so perhaps there's no reason for me to delay the sheet mulching?

Please tell me what you think!
 
Abraham Palma
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But ultimately, if I will need to sheet mulch it all to plant my forest garden, perhaps i need to stop being precious about it and just get on with the sheet mulching now???



It depends.
Do you want to use plants to work your soil in advance? Then let in or seed some wild plants that can grow deep roots, then cut them at ground level before they go to flower. The decaying roots will be a good starting point for anything you want to grow, and the cuttings will double serve as mulch.
Do you plan on using a rototiller? (can't see how you would introduce it in your backyard, but who knows?). A rototiller should be used just once, to break the hardpans under your soil, and then maintain it by not walking over and by keeping green cover or mulch on it.
If you start covering the grass with cardboards (to kill the grass) and some mulch over it, that would start the decomposition, but I think your soil needs some plants in it to provide sugars. Those microorganisms feed on decomposed matter, but they also need sugar from the living plant roots.
 
G Prentice
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Abraham Palma wrote:

But ultimately, if I will need to sheet mulch it all to plant my forest garden, perhaps i need to stop being precious about it and just get on with the sheet mulching now???



It depends.
Do you want to use plants to work your soil in advance? Then let in or seed some wild plants that can grow deep roots, then cut them at ground level before they go to flower. The decaying roots will be a good starting point for anything you want to grow, and the cuttings will double serve as mulch.
Do you plan on using a rototiller? (can't see how you would introduce it in your backyard, but who knows?). A rototiller should be used just once, to break the hardpans under your soil, and then maintain it by not walking over and by keeping green cover or mulch on it.
If you start covering the grass with cardboards (to kill the grass) and some mulch over it, that would start the decomposition, but I think your soil needs some plants in it to provide sugars. Those microorganisms feed on decomposed matter, but they also need sugar from the living plant roots.



So, I either use a rototiller or I can loosen the soil with certain types of plants that are good at doing the same thing with their roots? But if I use plants instead of a rototiller, I would need to sheet-mulch first in order to clear the lawn and plant the cover crop? There are currently some quite large areas of cleavers which I can pull up quite easily to expose bare soil, but in other areas the couch grass is quite vigorous.
 
Abraham Palma
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Yes, roughly.
Yeomans designed a method using three different plants, with deeper roots every year. First year, it was shallow root plants, second year deeper roots, third year the deepest root plants. But that's to be used in large fields. You could dig a little zone and observe where the hardpan is located, that's where you need hard roots to break it. But if that is too hard, then better to dig or use a rototiller. I've seen videos of hardpans so hard that even horseradishes could not penetrate.
 
G Prentice
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Abraham Palma wrote:Yes, roughly.
Yeomans designed a method using three different plants, with deeper roots every year. First year, it was shallow root plants, second year deeper roots, third year the deepest root plants. But that's to be used in large fields. You could dig a little zone and observe where the hardpan is located, that's where you need hard roots to break it. But if that is too hard, then better to dig or use a rototiller. I've seen videos of hardpans so hard that even horseradishes could not penetrate.



Thanks for that. One thing I'm confused about is that I thought permaculture was in favour of 'no-dig' methods. So, is it basically that if you have a compacted pan of soil under the surface you don't have the luxury of no-dig? After you've sorted out the compaction with digging, you can revert to no-dig from then on?
 
Abraham Palma
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Exactly.
Instustrial farming practice is to dig every year, so the soil is always loose. But that's killing the soil life.
No dig practice is to let plant roots loose the soil, but that would take three or more years, or even longer depending how hard is that hardpan. Digging just once is a compromise. When you dig you are killing the soil, but the very first time your soil might not be very alife anyways, so you dig, let plants thrive and then try to maintain the compaction under control so you don't need to dig again in ages.
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