The front garden

Today was sunny and calm, the whole week has been pretty dry with some rain over night on a couple of days. Everything that was flowering last week is still flowering. The blackbirds have started eating the Cotoneaster berries, and the pigeons (mainly, but blackbirds too) have started eating the Pyracantha berries.

But I've done the same 6 or so plants so often, that this week I am going to show the front garden which gets a mention for the first time. By splitting this into 6 sections I can meet the requirements of submitting this as my entry to the Six On Saturday meme, it also being a Saturday.

The front garden consists almost entirely of a wide hedge with a small lawn. I've always wanted to remove the hedge and grow a variety of shrubs and plants there as it has some of the best sun especially in the early and later parts of the year. Whereas the back garden suffers from a lot of shadow from buildings and fencing, the front garden is much more open and receives sunlight from very early until around three in the afternoon, which at this time of the year is pretty much all the available hours.

1 The hedge

The hedge is about 5 feet wide, but only 2 and a half feet tall, it stretches from the driveway across the front of the house and around the side. For a long time I was not sure what the hedge was, my latest opinion is that it is Portugal laurel. It is planted in two rows, and there are around 30 separate shrubs altogether.

Last Sunday I thought I would try cutting down one just to see how much work it would be. In fact it was very easy even though the trunk was quite thick, and I ended up taking out six.

What I am going to do is remove all the ones nearest the house to leave a single line. As and when I have something to plant, I will remove some of the front row. Something will have to be done with the soil too.

This picture was taken today before I removed a further four shrubs in front of the window.

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2 The soil

The soil is very hard and compact. It is also a nasty gray colour like the soil down the side of the house at the back. When I first moved in it was one of the first things I did to cover the soil with a layer of compost and it is perhaps hard to explain how much difference was made and how much my heart was lifted. I also believe that the soil is better now than it was originally.

So I am going to do something similar here. I've read that covering with wood chips is the best way to improve the soil and that it can work wonders on even hard compacted clay in a single season. It is hard to believe, so this will be an experiment. Next year we will see how it much better it is. Currently in this part it is hard to even make a dent in it. Further along it is better where it seems that more dropped leaves collect.

Oh, and there are also two manhole covers. This will be a theme.

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3 The manhole covers

We've already seen two, and here is another manhole cover. The funny thing was that these were pretty well hidden and the first time I saw them was on Google street view - the pictures were several years old and the covers were easily visible then.

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4 A shocking new discovery

This very day, I discovered yet another... Even though I removed the shrub covering this one last week I didn't notice it then. I suppose it is fairly well covered in soil and leaves, and perhaps was more so then.

The purpose of the hedge now becomes very clear and I will have to think carefully about hiding them again, while still allowing access in an emergency.

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5 A shredder

I bought this wood shredder. It is perhaps an unusual item for a small garden but I reckoned that it would be worth it for dealing with the front hedge alone. It is the cheapest possible model, but was well reviewed and I can confirm that it does the job well enough for me. The wood and the leaves of the laurel are quite dry so they do not clog the mechanism at all.

The main problem is the nature of the hedging itself. There is a thick trunk that is in most cases too wide for the shredder at the bottom, and lots of side shoots almost at right angles. So it has all got to be chopped into relatively straight pieces before being shredded.

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6 Some shredded hedge

So this is what the results are like, with some pruners as a reference for size. The woody parts are well shredded into little pieces, the twiggy bits are still visible as twigs but reasonably small. Even the leaves are shredded a bit.

I shredded the six shrubs I removed last Sunday and obtained about 2 and a half tubs. So that is about 100L of chippings. When the whole hedge is done, that will be somewhere around 500 litres.

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