If anyone had told me at this point just how much work this was going to be in total, I might have just said screw it, I love the large lawn. But they didn’t.
Taking on such a big space without a clear plan possibly wasn’t the best idea in the world, however it has meant the garden has been able to grow organically to meet our needs.
All we knew at the start was that we wanted to create five clear areas. Nearest the house would be for the new outbuilding and dog area, then a relax/entertain area, behind that the shed with raised beds for cut flowers, then a wild area and tucked in the far corner a little secret garden space.
We had to start somewhere, and the first obvious place was by dividing the main part of the lawn to create the dogs area and then our relaxing/entertaining area.
At this point in time, it feels like I have to justify something. Every photo you see from now on where the turf has been removed to create flower beds was all done by hand with a shovel. I had no idea that there was a machine you could hire that would remove the turf in neat little strips. Had the particular episode of Gardeners World where they utilised these machines been shown early 2016 this might have all happened a lot quicker. As it turns out I only found out about their existence after I have removed 95% of all the turf over the course of 15 months.
So, the digging began in earnest back in March 2016. A central flower bed with a trellis fence that would make the first division. It’s not until now that I realise the significance of this first piece of digging. This is where my obsession with having a garden we could enjoy started. This was the moment that secured my love gardening, love of plants and the moment that would really help me on my way to finding a bit of inner peace. I truly believe that gardening has aided my battle with my brain.
What you can’t see in this photo is what the soil is like. The ground was compacted and solid in places, with all sorts of crap buried in it. Seriously, I dug up whole bricks and paving slabs, mattresses, chunks of metal, glass jars and bottles, CD’s and cases, old kitchen tiles and numerous other things. There was a point I was worried I might start unearthing bodies. The soil was thick and claggy with streaks of orange. When it was I would find myself about an inch taller due to the clay sticking to the bottom of my shoes. This was exhausting work. I was determined not to stop.
One thing you should know about me – when I start something I rarely give up. Having made a start now on this digging, I had to make it all the way across the garden.
I’d be lying if I told you this was a happy time. It was not. I immediately regretted having started digging this heavy clay soil in this godforsaken weather. I was cold, damp, in pain and miserable. I was, most likely, a cranky arsehole of a person to be around at the time.
Still, I carried on. All that mattered was that the trellis fence went up and the garden was safe for the dogs to be in. Next door were, and still are, buidling a massive outbuilding and there was no fence between us and them, so this fence would also mean the dogs would be contained to our garden. It had to be done.
I worked through the Saturday and the Sunday, digging out one 2m x 1m rectangle at a time, putting in the steaks and screwing the trellis panel in to place.
A bit how I assume it must be after child-birth, I can no longer recall all the pain and suffering, and I can’t clearly remember how long it took to do this – whether it was over just one weekend or if it went on to another one. My mind has cleared all the bad memories, presumably to ensure that I would come back and continue with the work in the future.
However long it took, somehow it finally got completed. A small moment of joy at having made it the width of the garden, followed not long after by realisation of how much there was still to do. For now though, our first flower bed was in and Phase 1 had begun.
Now, what the hell to do with all that removed turf?