We allocated the first two days of the long Easter weekend to working on my Mother In Law’s garden. In a similar fashion to us, they completed major building works about ten years’ ago after moving to their property, and have been making measured progress from house to garden. After giving us so much help on our house and garden in the past couple of years, it was definitely time to give something back; hence Friday saw us loading up our tools early in the morning and heading on over to begin work.
Here, the landscaping close to the house was completed a couple of years’ ago, and similar to us there is a greenhouse and productive vegetable patch at the far end of the garden, however the space between the two was in need of drastic work.
Plants and shrubs “temporarily” planted out ten or more years ago had grown wild and woody, self-seeded forget-me-nots and spanish bluebells had colonised the space between these along with brambles and dandelions (but not the nettles or bindweed that we also wrestle with in our patch). Our task was straightforward, if a little daunting. Dig out everything to be saved, cut all the rest down to the ground, rotivate and level the lot, then plan borders and a centralised lawn.
Pots of plants lined the fences, patiently awaiting a permanent home (a familiar theme), not including several dozen pots of our own plants that have been well looked after here for the past two years while our site has been inhospitable. Some had even rooted out through the bottom of their pots in search of pastures new.
The biggest structures were a huge woody ceanothus that was more than a decade old, and beginning to wane; intertwined with an old hebe and a rampant cornus whose bare branches had travelled ten feet or more along the ground, often rooting again where they touched the soil, before turning up to the light once more and producing leaves.
In the unseasonal heat of the day we worked hard; the pots were all moved away, roses and hebes dug out and put in pots, the overgrown tangle of ceanothus/hebe/cornus/bramble was pruned back to the ground with shears and saws. Then the strimmer was set loose across the plot, cutting back the softer vegetation that remained. This was raked up as best it could be, and then the old workhorse, the rotivator, was given a quick oil change and put into motion. As King of the Hill pushed this mighty beast through the tangled wasteland, MIL and I worked to rake off as much of the organic matter that it spat out as we could.
As the light faded, we cleaned our tools and tucked them away before heading home for hot baths and welcome sleep.
Saturday dawned even more hot and sunny (only April? Really?) as we stretched our stiff limbs and set back to work. We gleamed in the heat of the day as we moved spade after spade of soil from banks and hillocks, wheeling them about to fill up troughs and depressions and bring the garden to a level. Then we marked out the boundaries between border and lawn with hosepipes, and King of the Hill pulled an old lawn roller across the span to be grassed, compacting the earth ready to sow seed.
We moved some of the pots of plants around the new borders then, and a handful were dug in to their new home while others were still too dry, and queued instead to be soaked in buckets of water.
Now my mother in law can start to enjoy her garden properly as she adds the plants that she loves. We’ll be back to help sow the grass, possibly in the autumn now, and there are still a few humps and troughs that may need a little more work in the lawned area, and a strip of ground between the the main garden and the greenhouse still needs digging out before it can form part of the boundaries, but the majority of the hard work is done. What a difference a day (or two) makes!
After these long hard days, we slipped off to visit friends in a leafy borough of London (such amazing trees!) for the rest of the Easter break, with more than a little satisfaction at a job done. We returned on Monday evening rested and ready to tackle our own patch once more.
We have taken the rest of this week off work, along with much of the nation taking advantage of the glut of bank holidays, and thus Tuesday found us paintbrush in hand resuming painting the exterior of the house after the sudden deterioration of the weather last autumn stopped us in our tracks. If this dry spell holds, we hope to finally complete the painting by the end of the weekend, and then we can start to prepare the ground around the house for paving.
It is hopefully only a matter of weeks now until we can finally be done with the debris of building work, and can completely reclaim our own garden and start to plant up the borders and patch up what is left of the lawn. The greenhouse is already heaving with seedlings and young plants destined not only for the vegetable beds this year…
* well, okay, two days’ work if you want to be exact about it…