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Walled garden, what would you do?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 14
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I have a small walled garden, walled on three and a bit sides, open to the south, it's on a slope, about 10degrees, although I haven't measured accurately. The slope is down towards the south. This is in South Wales, UK.

At the top right, the bedrock sticks out, it's beautiful.

Currently it's massively overgrown. I started clearing it to discover that the previous owners had laid down rubble sacks, dumped rubble on top, and left the lot.

I'm going to hire a digger to, at the very least dig up the rubble sacks, as I can't tell how far they extend underground.

What else would you do with the site?

I share this land with other people and there is some disagreement over what the garden should do, (although it's my decision ultimately).

My plan is as follows: A hugel bed along the top south facing wall, to grow melons and peppers in the short term, and in a few years time plant either citrus or soft fruit. Possibly build a short retaining wall in front of that bed for soil stability. Currently we are not sure how much soil depth there is to plant trees straight away, as it's just some topsoil, rubble and bedrock.
In the centre a raised herb spiral, (hugel herb spiral), with spokes emanating outwards on the ground, with strawberries, salads etc. Clear plants away from the bedrock to show it off and grow strawberries and dry-loving mediterranean herbs and plants in that corner.
Grow wildflowers elsewhere. Along the West facing wall apricots, along the east facing wall japanese wineberries and/or siberian kiwis. In the north facing corner there is a shed, and behind that I'll build a proper three-pallet compost system.

With this plan, because in places the ground is currently bowl shaped, plants behind the herb spiral would be shaded for some of the day.

The alternative plan, which I'm less keen on, is use the digger to terrace the land or level it at some height or other, and have rows of raised beds for growing.
I don't like this plan so much because
a. I want a circular plan
b. We can always make terraces with hugels
c. I don't want to lose the feature of seeing the bedrock

But am I missing a trick? Would terracing be a better plan?
What would you do?
Thanks for your thoughts!

p.s. the rubble is mainly stone and old lime. Not much/any concrete as far as I can see.

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Posts: 82
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When I was living in Southsea, I used to go to a lot of demolition sites and collect the old collectors from the down pipes, I would then get them sandblasted to get the old crud off and then hand paint them. Many of the old Victorian collectors are very ornate and make Great Wall holders for herbes and such. You could also look into fan fruit trees this will give you great verity and take up little room. You could also look at grapes or other vine fruit such as gooseburry. I f the beds rant very deap it looks like the walls are made from local field stone, so you should be able to make border walls and then look for compost or manure with top soil to build them up.

I'd love to see pictures when you get it all cleaned up.
 
pollinator
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This is not a comprehensive answer, but something leapt out at me from your description... hugel beds settle quite a lot as they decay, so a hugel herb spiral is going to collapse. Either do a hugel or an herb spiral, but if you build an herb spiral, build it solid or you will be disappointed. Good luck, and I look forward to seeing other people's comments.
 
pollinator
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walled garden.. I'm so jealous! I'd so try growing some peaches or apricots on the south-facing wall, then keyhole raised beds nearer the centre if you like a flowing circular design. You can alternate perennial and annual-raised beds, means there's always something growing somewhere and no patch of garden ever looks boring. Fit lots of bulbs- like crocus, or smaller herb plants around the base of the raised beds- flowers for the insects. Around the other walls I'd go for berries- japanese wineberries grow amazingly well in the East-Midlands site even when very shaded, and I'd try fit an apple tree in somewhere- I don't think you can beat fruit trees.

As for the rubble.. can you keep the rubble to be your paths? IT might require some heavy clearing and things but you might as well use what you have been given! My plot was full of (rubble sacks of) buried bricks- now I have brick paths!
 
Meg Davies
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Thanks for everyone's replies so far.
Yes maybe a larger keyhole bed in the centre makes sense.
Interested if anyone would encourage using the digger to resurface the land in some way - such as to raise the keyhole beds?
Currently planning what the digger will do while we have it.

Good point about the hugels dropping in height.

I wasn't planning on removing all of the rubble as this would lower the ground level too much, I might take out very large stones and then return the rest just without the plastic bags. Put the topsoil to one side and put that back on top at the end, and then over time keep adding organic matter to build the soil level up. Does that sound reasonable? Or do I ideally need to get rid of all the rocks?

I find decision making and planning takes up more energy than actually doing the work!

 
master pollinator
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I would treat earthworks and the building of garden beds as two separate but connected events, with the earthworks coming first.

The goal of the earthworks is to ensure that you control the hydrology to your liking, for the most part, as if that part is omitted, you could do all kinds of fancy things with raised beds, only to have them slowly (or not so slowly) wash downhill.

Terracing the space will probably be the most efficient use of space, and just because it might be terraced on-contour doesn't mean that you can't have a round plan on what amounts to a wide staircase down the hill.

I would love to see more.

From what we've seen already, I would probably carve that lot into a series of terraces on-contour, wide enough for two people to pass comfortably side-by-side when the path is overgrown, perhaps even wide enough for a sort of polycultural walkable pasture alley, either mowable to be given to nearby livestock, or to be used as individual paddocks.

On either side of the pasture alley, I would dig a swale, probably with a considerable hugelbeet element to it, and plant my fruit trees, my hazel and mulberry understory, my walnut or chestnut or some such longer-maturing overstory, my cane fruit and blueberries, currants, and strawberries.

I would try to make sure that I had a tree that took to coppicing and pollarding well, and that was also a host to nitrogen-fixing bacteria, so to provide myself with wood for fire or biochar and nitrogen for the soil through bacterial fixation and seasonal leaf drop.

I would take cues regarding specific choices from the neighbourhood and inspiration from areas around the world in similar growing conditions.

Alley cropping lanes could easily be switched out from pasture to lanes for field crops before the perennial canopy establishes itself, and that canopy could be pruned to keep some lanes open for field crops or raised beds and/or hugelbeets.

For me, it would depend largely on what resources were available, and how much time I had to spend on the project versus the kind of return I could expect. It is for this reason that I anticipate having some small livestock involved, for nutrient cycling and resource concentration in the form of food and fibre (even just eggs from hens, milk from goats and sheep, and fibre from both would contribute fast, in some cases near-instant, returns, and that's without getting into raising animals for meat).

I would most definitely keep bees for honey, and plant accordingly.

I would accentuate the exposed bedrock by building retaining walls, in fact, even just short ones, out of rock found onsite, if it exists, to border the short terrace steps on-contour.

If the garden was large enough, I would even investigate putting in a pond at the top of the system, complete with a reed bed system, to catch falling and diverted rainwater, if possible, to clean it, and then to drive a gravity-powered drip-irrigation or wicking system, to supplement the action of the swales. I would even look into a pond at the bottom with a reed bed setup, and the possibility of pumping water from the bottom pond to the top with a solar or wind-powered pump. Drop in some local fish species, and we've just created a fish manure-based hydroponic irrigation setup.

To be clear, when I say pond in the context of a garden, I mean something about the size of a bathtub, probably lined, unless the soil is water-impermeable, and with a graduated sand and gravel perimeter, but that then drops as deep as is safe and practical for the conditions, to give the maximum amount of water storage capacity with a minimal footprint, while maintaining the benefits of a miniature riparian area to the wildlife, and especially the pollinators.

The above ideas maximise water capture and storage in the environment, and durability over time.

Incidentally, hugelbeets can't be used as terraces; their nature, as big decomposing piles of woody biomass makes them rather impermanent, which is why, should you want hugelbeet terraces, it is advisable to shape the land accordingly, first. That way, your hugelbeets don't go visiting the neighbours in the first big rain event.

Thanks for the pictures. They're lovely! Please post more, at your earliest convenience of course. I'm dying to see more.

Good luck, and keep us posted.

-CK
 
gardener
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The first thing I would do is some chop and drop so I could really get the lay of the land visible.
Never get rid of large stones, they can be put to many different uses as you build your ideal garden.

The rubble I see in the photos appears to be a failed, previous attempt at making a terrace wall, that might be one thing to look at carefully.

With the walls, and where you are, I don't think you will have big issues with getting enough water, it might be too much water is the issue.

Those walls are perfect for use as trellises and espalier fruit trees would be smashing against them.

A key hole can be extended (as Chris mentioned)

Earth works should always come first, be they for water control or just for the layout you want.

Redhawk
 
Meg Davies
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Thanks again for your replies and suggestions.

The walled garden is quite small, although I have about an acre in total of mainly pasture bordered by ash and hazel trees.

I really like the idea of putting two bathtub sized ponds somewhere to clean greywater.

In South Wales we have plenty of rainfall, and so water collection for the couple of drier months is something I want to do.

I am still unconvinced about terracing, I need to better understand the benefits. I can understand it on a steep slope, but on a slope of around 10 degrees are there great benefits?

I will definitely return with more pictures when the digging is done, I've chosen the most overgrown point of the year to take photos!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I am still unconvinced about terracing, I need to better understand the benefits. I can understand it on a steep slope, but on a slope of around 10 degrees are there great benefits?



Ten degrees is on the cusp of swale/berm vrs. terrace. In cases like this I usually advise to do what looks best to you and so best serves your purposes, the human eye is a marvelous judge if we pay attention to what the brain tells us. (I refer to this as the "feels right" scenario).

I wish I had spaces that were only 10 degrees, but on our patch of mountain we have either 1 to 6 degrees slope or 35 to 40 degrees of slope, so up top is swale berm and at the edge on down to the valley we get to build Inca type terraces (I have always got more of these to build).

I love your idea of two ponds for water cleaning (perhaps a nice reed bed before the first and a fungi mat between the two?)  I'm sure you have good ideas on this construction project.

Redhawk
 
Meg Davies
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In cases like this I usually advise to do what looks best to you and so best serves your purposes, the human eye is a marvelous judge if we pay attention to what the brain tells us. (I refer to this as the "feels right" scenario).  



Ah thank you that is really helpful! That is what I needed to hear I think

 
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Either do a hugel or an herb spiral, but if you build an herb spiral, build it solid or you will be disappointed.

 I can imagine a hugel herb spiral.  What I would do first is to used stone and a bunch of your rubble to build up a rising spiral of solid material.  This spiral of stony material would have a spiral of un-stony space, so you would then infill the lower level of the space of the spiral with your hugel wood, followed by the sub soils, top soils, and compost to bring it above the level of the path that is the stony spiral.   Make sense?  
 
Meg Davies
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Yes makes sense, thanks!
 
master steward
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:

Either do a hugel or an herb spiral, but if you build an herb spiral, build it solid or you will be disappointed.

 I can imagine a hugel herb spiral.  What I would do first is to used stone and a bunch of your rubble to build up a rising spiral of solid material.  This spiral of stony material would have a spiral of un-stony space, so you would then infill the lower level of the space of the spiral with your hugel wood, followed by the sub soils, top soils, and compost to bring it above the level of the path that is the stony spiral.   Make sense?  



If you make it a hugel herb spiral, make sure to pack dirt around the logs! I didn't realize this when I made mine (see link in my signature), and the dirt settled a LOT, and some of those plants suffered quite a bit. It was really bad at the top of the spiral, where I'd added 2 feet of alder but didn't fill in between the logs with dirt. It settled almost a foot! I had to add a lot more soil to fill out the herb spiral. But, it's doing great now. I'm glad I made it a hugel herb spiral, as it really retains moisture and the plants are doing well and I didn't have to use too much soil to build it--I just wish I'd realized I needed to put dirt between the logs!
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