Sunday, 7 September 2014

LIFE: Gardening in a small space


You might have guessed from the title and the picture, but just to make it clear, the Lad and I are both keen gardeners.

If you'd asked me about gardening five years ago, I would have pointed at some pansies in the Homebase garden centre and bashed a load in the tiny raised bed we had out the back of our student flat and said 'good job.'

I think that was the last time I bought some pansies.

We moved to our current home about 3.5 years ago. It has a 10x35foot space at the back. After putting a shed at the end and creating a substantial chicken run for our two feathered friends, we're left with about 10x20 foot of garden. At one time we had a nice border down one edge and a lovely lawn. Then one day I woke up, went out and dug the whole thing over.

It was one of the most liberating things I've ever done*. British homes are subconsciously rated on their class status by the state of their lawns. Bet you've never really thought about it before, but I also bet you'll agree.

We started to fill our massive bed with flowery plants and shrubs.

A number of people questioned my decision to get rid of our grass. How will you upkeep it with full time shift work? Won't the chickens destroy it? You'll not have room in your green bin, surely? How will you entertain people now? and my personal favourite: Why?

The answer to all of these things is: grass is the most maintenance needy plant you can ever put in a garden, so why would I want to keep it?

- If I have time to cut the grass every week in the height of summer, I'll have time to potter about pruning a few straggly offshoots of plants every couple of weeks or so. (Something I can also do whilst it's raining)
- Chickens scratch, eat and shit on grass making it a not very nice place to entertain or enjoy - with shrubs, they scrat about the bushes and find worms, slugs and other lovely treats before leaving some excellent manure to be swept underneath afterwards**.
- All my garden waste goes into the chicken run for them to rummage about in whilst I'm at work so we rarely use our green bin at all.
- With all the foliage and flowers around, it's a haven for insects and animals. From tiny spiders  and butterflies to blackbirds and hedgehogs, we have them all!
At first we also thought it would take a lot of work, but it really doesn't. Just bash the plants in (like you would a pansy), but instead of having a few months of flowers and foliage, there's years worth of potential in them. And you don't have to lift a finger for the most part. Just let them do their thing!

The best thing about not having grass in the garden? 

It's a beautiful place to come home to.


* If you were worrying that I have a severely un-British relationship with grass, think again. Our lawn at the front of our house is what dreams are made of. I'm so proud of my edging that I show pictures of it to customers at work. Yeah, I take it that far.

** Some publications will tell you that chickens do not destroy plants that you have purposefully planted, but our chickens make a bee-line for those plants. Especially alpines. And especially the plants I really don't want them to eat. Although we let them roam the garden occasionally, we do not make it a habit of letting them out all the time. Hence why we put our cuttings in the run so they still get a good varied diet, but our plants do not suffer. It's also why we've given such a large portion of our outdoor space towards their run so they can flap happily about without disrupting our garden.

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