Just a Spadeful of Topsoil Helps a Project Along…

It must be a number of weeks since I mentioned the numerous projects that had suggested themselves since the summer and which have been ongoing ever since, in between other commitments. The last week or so has brought them close to fruition, aided by the arrival of a tonne of topsoil. Just inside the gate which opens onto the lane at the front of our house, some of the topsoil was used to fill up a new bed created to make up for the loss of the fig which grew against the house (to the left of the photograph). At the base of a mature hedge which is raised a few feet above ground level here, the bed occupies an area that was largely block paved but used partially to display my miniature hostas for a time, but also home to all sorts of bulky rubbish on its way to the bins. Being a relatively shady area, the intention is to plant it with appropriately shade-tolerant plants, maintaining a green and white palette to reflect the massively green and leafy impact previously made by the fig.

However, this only used about a third of the bag of topsoil and many wheelbarrow trips were made to other parts of the garden, particularly to top up the areas where we cut down two hazel trees a year ago and impulsively made the decision last month to have the stumps removed:

At the side of the shed, next to the woodland, we had used the stumps in the top picture to display large crystals, whereas the one in the lower picture at the back of the shed was barely visible beneath the multiple regrowth which was regularly cut back. A water butt which stood on the flat area to the right would also have partially hidden it, as did a very large fern, cut back in preparation for the tree man. This is the first time we have paid someone to do a job for us, but from a conversation I had some years ago with a man at the local tip, I knew that the cost of hiring a stump grinder was often not much less than the cost of having someone with their own grinder do the job, and this proved to be the case, with both stumps ground in little more than an hour. The scale and position of the second one, however, was such that they were unable to grind it down below ground level:

Many of my creative garden ideas seem to pop out of nowhere, and once the stumps were ground the possibilities just kept on coming. The successful removal of the first stump enabled a good depth of soil, assisted by the addition of a low retaining wall, and it was always the intention to add another rose here and Rosa ‘Morning Mist’ had been ordered along with two others over a month ago. The rose will come bare-rooted next month and will invite some compatible neighbours in due course:

Knowing the soil depth would still be restricted in the other area, the original thought was  to add a good layer of top soil and grow shallow-rooted woodland edge plants, complementing the adjacent borders, but an inspired suggestion from the Golfer that the water butt could be replaced above the part most affected by the remaining roots brought about a chain reaction of new ideas. Moving the water butt and removing the breeze block plinth it stood on as well as the brick stand for watering cans freed up the useable soil beneath, then ‘Oh! that sink was only ever placed there because there was no other viable location – would I miss it? No? Then let’s get rid of it’. Next  it was ‘Hmm, a retaining wall would help stop soil being washed onto the path’, then ‘If I move that (now much reduced in bulk) fern to the back by the water butt, there would be space to move the ill-placed witch hazel ‘Amethyst’ from behind the house, close to others in the woodland edge borders’, and finally ‘It would look better if that hellebore was moved and the log-effect stepping stone path realigned slightly’.

And it was so – although unlike the creation of the earth it came about in only a few hours over a couple of days – and the Gardener was pleased with what she saw…

The area to the right of the photograph has looked like a building site for a couple of months whilst various projects have been ongoing, but is now gradually being cleared. Fortunately, we are able to pass on the unwanted sink and some excess block paving to a friend instead of trying to sell them, so this will help the tidying process. AND my spontaneous wall building has used up our supply of free-from-a-neighbour bricks, so the brick store can be dismantled in due course, meaning – whoohoo! – more growing space!

Talking about more growing space, come for a walk further down the garden and see some more:

This was actually the first project to be started but the most time-consuming, and was left to the Golfer inbetween golf and jobs for a friend of his. The lack of regular success with gooseberries and blackcurrants meant that much of the fruit cage was underutilised and already partially used to contain an additional cutting bed, allowing for segregated growing space for sweet peas and zinnias. Removing the underperformers altogether would make reducing the size of the fruit cage a viable proposition and free up space for more, which it certainly has done, with two beds approximately 1 x 2m and brick pathways between them. The bottom end has been paved to accommodate the stand for all the pots of things grown for sale, overwintering, or waiting to be planted out. Even the addition of the previously empty strip between the greenhouse and the original outer edge of the fruit cage adds up to about a square metre of useable space.

It looks so different here, as it does in the other areas completed in the last few days, and I can’t help but stand at gaze it every time I ramble to this end of the garden, walking up and down the new paths (and feeling 4″ taller because of the bricks!!)… The zinnias, you may have noted, have shrugged off the work going on around them and are still standing tall, flowering their socks off and asking me why I haven’t yet added them to a vase…

All these projects have created additional planting space to the garden, very roughly 8 square metres of it – a hugely valuable asset for a plant lover – but the excitement of this should not overlook an earlier smaller project, removing the pink hawthorn (yes, it’s gone) and a raised herb planter to allow for an extension to the shrub border, already home to the small Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ I purchased earlier this year and Rosa ‘Olivia Rose Austin’. Whatever next?!

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26 Responses to Just a Spadeful of Topsoil Helps a Project Along…

  1. tidalscribe says:

    Nothing like a pile of topsoil to inspire. I tend to go on the defensive when Cyberspouse suggests chopping or digging up – then I see new possibilities and we totally change our little plot. He is not interested in growing things, but does love sawing up and rebuilding. He also enjoys photographing the blooms and insects later on.

    • Cathy says:

      The Golfer and I both like a good project – he doesn’t ‘garden’ but will happily do the wooden constructions I dream up wheras bricklaying is my love.

  2. bcparkison says:

    My goodness. Things are going to be hopping til Spring.but won’t it be lovely.

  3. Wow, I’m impressed with your stamina. Summer has done me in this year so fall garden chores are still waiting but nothing like what you’ve been doing here. That is some good looking top soil!

    • Cathy says:

      Admittedly things like planting out a number of things acquired in recent months and the last of the bulb planting have been put aside in favour of New Projects…

  4. Cathy says:

    Wow, so much more space! You have been busy, but I also hear how pleased you are with all the chnages after your hard work! 🙂

  5. You certainly don’t let the grass grow under your feet Cathy! I have been wondering what all your new projects involved. A green and white palette in the new bed by the gate – do I detect any snowdrops creeping in? Talking of which I noticed two snouts emerging in pots yesterday – ‘Faringdon’s Double’ and ‘Three Ships’ 😄 No wonder you are excited with all that new space to play with.

    • Cathy says:

      Do you know, until you mentioned it I hadn’t thought of adding snowdrops there (strangely!) – but it would useful to have an extension to my already fairly full snowdrop border, so thank you for that prompt! I need to clear the white summer bedding from the snowdrop border very soon, especially now you have mentioned your early shows!

  6. So much happening and it all looks so promising. New Top Soil – such a boost to any garden!

  7. Cathy my congratulations on your fabulous projects and those that will come, because your creativity does not let you stop creating beautiful things. I love the land you have earned to plant. I’m going to get lost: you have to reflect the changes in your garden map. Welcome the new roses in the stumps place. Take care Greetings from Margarita.

  8. Brian Skeys says:

    You definitely confirm what I said on my blog, Autumn is the start of the gardening year and a busy time it is. The rewards will be in the spring when you begin to see the results.

    • Cathy says:

      Yes, I quite agree Brian, and if it’s not the projects it’s planning for next year – and the bulb planting and early seed sowing too…all with a new season in mind

  9. Chloris says:

    Wow, you have been busy. There’s nothing quite like having a project or two in the garden is there? Although I think I have bitten off more than I can chew with my present one, it will probably kill me. Either that or give me muscles like Rambo. And you have bought Jacqueline Postill at last. She’s going to make you very happy.

    • Cathy says:

      I am sure you have suggested that previous projects might be ‘too much’ for you, and you have pulled them off, with or without the extra muscles, Chloris! I am so curious about what your current project is, as I know it will be something far more imaginative than my little projects. I don’t know if JP will flower this next season or not, as it is a fairly small specimen – I bought it not long after we visited, and it has been sitting in a pot waiting for a suitable space.

  10. tonytomeo says:

    Figs are not easy to kill, but getting rid of the stump below grade makes it easier. If you see new shoots emerging, it is best to pull them out if possible, rather than just cutting them back. They will eventually wear themselves out if you pull them regularly. They regenerate more easily from cut back stems then from roots.

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