The creation of a wildflower meadow

As previously mentioned, while digging the pond I also started a wildflower meadow to replace my front lawn. Well, why not? The bees need help, wildflowers are pretty to look at, it’ll be more biologically diverse and it will require less management than a lawn in the long term. Also it involves lots of digging: my fave!

My superb friends did the bulk of the hard work, digging out the turf in sections until after three days digging there was none left…

Highly recommended free labour!
Highly recommended free labour!

Sadly I failed to take a picture of the bare soil at this stage. But I’m sure you can imagine what it looked like :p

Next we tried to add soil to build up the level to equal the neighbouring concrete driveway. We did this by bashing the upside turves and breaking the soil up as much as possible. This probably generated about half a barrow load in total so we had a bit of an issue. I had some soil from the free labour gang’s old garden but this also didn’t look a lot once spread out. There was nothing we could do about that so we simply built up the pathway (see paving slabs in the pics below) using unbeaten turves and levelled these as best we could and then created a gradual slope from the edge by the driveway so falling off the edge was no longer a key risk of wandering around the front garden!

At this stage we were left with large clumps of soil, fairly dry and totally unsuitable for sowing wildflower seed. So I had to put off the sowing until I had worked the soil into roughly a medium tilth. This took a long time due to having to work (what a bore!) and both the husband and I spent an hour or two each day after work digging over the soil until eventually it was as good as it was going to get in its current dry state. Then we had to wait for rain. And wait. And wait.

The weekend just gone it finally rained (also good news for the pond, which by now had evaporated to the point of being two small puddles) and I was able to work the soil into what I am choosing to call a medium tilth (experienced gardeners would probably wince) using my homemade rake from this post.

A medium tilth?!
A medium tilth?!

At long last it was time to plant the seed! As the mix (Emorsgate EN1) contained plenty of grasses as well as wildflowers it was very easy to see where I was spreading the seed (so no need to mix with sand) although spreading it evenly was easier said than done! Once I had spread all the seed as evenly as I could I tramped down the seeds to give a good contact and gave the garden a quick water. Now I am watering every day while I am waiting for more rain (I dislike this immensely but hopefully in the long term watering will not be needed)!

Seeds!
Seeds!

Quick pond update:

DSCF1578

Just a quickie…

Yesterday was another fine, sunny day and so after cycling home from work I felt motivated enough to do a little planting. I finally gave up on the thyme and sowed some coriander in its place (I would have re-sown the thyme but I’ve lost it!). My peas and spring onions (I previously sowed half a row of each) never appeared – possibly due to the soil being too cold – and now I have planted another few seeds of each (a little further along the same row so I haven’t given up on them!). Same story with the lettuce and salad leaves – none came up, so I have started again (same soil). The parsley has sprouted so has gone into a real outside pot. The coriander, lettuce and salad leaves are back in mushroom pots in the ‘greenhouse’, which I also mended yesterday so it now has a cover again and may actually act as a greenhouse. Much as I would love a proper greenhouse there isn’t really room and they’re very expensive, so it’s ‘tent greenhouse’ or nothing!

There was a little rain this morning but it didn’t quite make up for the evporative losses in the pond so the level is slightly lower than when I finished! Come on rain! The single inhabitant (pond skater) has left and not returned 😦

Mr S has also just finished the second compost bin (made from old fence panels), which is another good job done. Next major job is to re-roof the shed. An easy one to put off but we really should get on with it!

The Pond

I am now with pond! Over Easter I dug a pond in my back garden with considerable help from my husband and two superb volunteers who may even one day dig a pond of their own and thus enable me to return the favour. Although I designed it myself and used various guides and forum posts to help me decide things like how deep to make it, I owe the ‘how to’ almost entirely to Dr Jeremy Biggs of Pond Conservation, and his very fine pond-digging blog post here. I missed out some steps and sometimes went my own way but generally followed his guidance and superior pond know-how*. Thanks Dr Biggs!

Thanks are also due to my lovely neighbour, who lent us a wheelbarrow and a spade (and encouragement!).

There’s not much point in me reproducing what Dr Biggs has already written so well so I have just picked a selection of pictures showing how we made progress over the 3 days. By the fourth day I was also well on my way to having a wildflower meadow in my front garden but that’s another story!

Outline marked out
Outline marked out
First cut
First cut
First ring of turf removed
First ring of turf removed
Turf removal progress
Turf removal progress
All turf gone!
All turf gone!
Levellin', levellin' levellin, we're levellin' like this...
Levellin’, levellin’ levellin, we’re levellin’ like this…
Deeper basins dug out
Deeper basins dug out
Spade deep
Spade deep
Liner
Liner (and underlay) from pondkeeper.com with 40 years guarantee
First water before securing liner with turves
First water before securing liner with turves
Adding substrate
Adding substrate
Filling it up
Filling it up
20 mins later
20 mins later
Just over an hour of filling
Just over an hour of filling
Another 15 mins later
Another 15 mins later
2 hours from the beginning
2 hours from the beginning
The next morning
The next morning – 2 whole water butts and the pond is just shy of full

Now I am just waiting for some more substrate to build up (dead leaves and such). I was excited to see a pond skater in there the second day but this has now left in high dudgeon due to lack of food! I think I will buy some plants at some point (not from a garden centre but very carefully selected species from a pond specialist). I now can’t wait for rain so the pond can full up!

*While I have a lot to do with pond management in my professional life I have never dug one myself and they are usually not garden-sized or for wildlife purposes!