Posted in The Secret Gardeners: Book Gardens

Book Gardens: Digging, Digging and (Yes) More Digging

There may be a few of you reading, wondering (there also may not, but I know I’m wondering) where the blog posts about the garden have gone. We did one blog post, written by my mother, one video produced poorly by me and then suddenly nothing. The thing is, I wanted the content to be interesting and so far, well, it’s not.

The sort-of-before shot of the Merlin Garden

            Since the creation of the initial two we have been doing practically nothing but digging up grass. With many fields to turn into gardens and no digger to help us with the chore it’s up to the two of us and a couple of garden forks to do it all. And this isn’t just any bog-standard garden grass. In a small garden in England you may have a lawn that a lawn-edger can easily cut through, that’s reasonably easy to maintain. Our grass isn’t like this. Ours is full of weeds and wildflowers, built up over decades in the orchard. The root systems can be as much as a foot deep (even deeper if we’ve caught onto a heavy load of dandelions) and we keep finding the roots of old trees that’ve been left in the ground. Even dead they’re strong and hard to move.

            At our fastest we can manage a metre squared an hour, which is a poor showing when our time is often taken up by other jobs or the weather has stopped us from going out. Currently we’re in the process of digging out two gardens: Merlin and our Beatrix Potter vegetable garden. So far, as of 2nd May, we’ve been doing the job for a couple of months (since March) and we have dug up roughly a third of Merlin and a twentieth perhaps of Beatrix Potter. It’s hard going and it gets very dull. Sometimes we have to take a day off digging to do something else because we’re just so bored with the same task.

We’d just started digging.

            You can understand then why there hasn’t been much content. As much as I’d love to show the process behind creating our book-gardens, at the minute that would simply be many videos worth of us digging… and more digging… and more digging. It’s tedious for us so I’m not willing to put readers or viewers through the same thing.

            However, excitingly there has been some progress outside of digging (all in Merlin, as Beatrix Potter isn’t even close to get onto the next step). Merlin’s paths are partly down. I mean partly, in the sense that the main path around the width of the plot is there but the centre rambling path is yet to be completed. Each path has been edged with whatever was affordable. For the pond area it’s been edged with cheap wooden rolls (costing 2 Euros 50 each—we used roughly thirteen); the entry way’s edging has been done with old slate roof-tiles we had in abundance in the barn (so, free); and the centre path is going to be using straight unbendable wooden edging (around 4 euros at our local supermarket).

            At all times we’ve been trying to cut down on costs but the bill still goes up. We used cheap slabs in the paths to break them up and also to cut the quantity of gravel we would need. Even still, with a reasonably priced gravel (8 Euros 75 for 35kg, and a red gravel on sale at roughly 5 Euros for 25kg) we’ve still had to use a large quantity and that’s made the bill skyrocket. Each time hard-landscaping adds up it cuts into our plants bill which, for a flower lover like my Mum, hurts a lot. If it had been a normal year it may have been fine. We may have been able to open our business and throw the money earned there into our gardens but it just hasn’t happened.

We put the paths down before we finished digging. Mistake!

            The funniest thing is that in order to be allowed the time to do all of the work in the garden it’s helpful not to have guests, but that kicks our budgets for the garden (also, emotionally, not receiving guests has been draining). I realise that I’m not breaking into complaining about an issue a lot of people have in 2021, but just allow me this quick rant. I promise I’ll stop soon (I can promise no such thing as I have no control over future Amy).

            So, the paths are getting there. The pond is almost dug out and we’ve purchased the liner etc. ready to go down (but we’re avoiding it until the remaining grass has been removed). The Mediterranean bed has been planted after purchasing the plants before lockdown began again: Three types of lavenders make up the bulk of the planting, then we have salvias, two evergreens and a curry plant (because I wanted to use it in cooking). We also have plants growing for shady areas inside the house which we purchased last month as rootstock from Farmer Gracy.

The sticks marks where the shade of the tree falls.

            The syringa (lilac trees/shrubs) have been planted along with another evergreen and a rose down the side of the entrance path to lead your eye down to Merlin’s tomb (a big rock that was already there and I couldn’t even pretend I could move—thankfully it was perfect for the design). Next, after digging up the remaining grass we’ll be laying down the centre dark path and the hidden reading area. In total the Merlin garden will have three relaxing spots: a chair to read in secret just off the hidden pathway, a bench (yet to be purchased) next to the pond and a hammock (yet to be purchased) in Merlin’s bedroom in the centre. Originally the hammock was going to be a raised bed you could lay on but, after searching for clover for ages we decided to go the hammock route and plant underneath it instead.

The slabs only cost a couple euros each. Bargain.

            Videos will be coming but, I’m simply waiting until we’ve moved onto another step (a more interesting step than digging at the very least). Until then I’m considering setting up an Instagram account so that I can at least post pictures of the digging we’ve accomplished that day (or pictures from our visits to the local Pepiniere/grower). I’ll let you know if I decide to do ahead with it.

            Again, my apologies for not posting as often as I would like. Writing has become a bit of a struggle as of late. I wish I could say it was because of not having enough time, but I have that in abundance unfortunately. Instead my mental heath has been the cause of the block and has made it hard to concentrate on anything—or accomplish any of the multitudes that I wish I could be doing. I’ll try and update this blog as often as I can. The next blog post will probably be a review of the SortedFood App (an app designed by the YouTubers SortedFood to help cook during a week). Keep an eye out for that if you’re interested and thank you for reading.

Signed,

The Literary Onion