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OUT IN THE GARDEN: Making sure plants get water and light

I believe one of life’s simple pleasures is popping the bubbles on bubble wrap, dunking a biscuit into a fresh brew and picking the dry skin off your feet following a bath.It was whilst attacking said feet and checking my emails that I came across Elizabeth010@******.com

Elizabeth seems to have a perfect storm of problems within her garden. Shewrites that when she first moved into her new home she was keen to add some privacy and rather than erect a fence to shield herself from her neighbours she opted to plant a beech hedge.

Fast forward 15 years and that beech hedge is now 12ft tall and looking beautiful.Around the same time that she planted the hedge, Elizabeth also planted several trees, including Eucalyptus and Hazel, plus she laid a new lawn.

Dry ground (41780182)
Dry ground (41780182)

For over 10 years her garden looked beautiful but what was quite a small dry patch has now grown to become a real problem.

At the bottom of her garden under the shade of the Hazel tree, the lawn has become bare and even after heavy rainfall it seems to dry out really quickly and she struggles to grow anything in and around that very dry shady patch.

After looking at some photos of the affected area it was pretty obvious to me that the now fully established beech hedge and the towering coppiced red hazel are drawing all the available moisture out of the soil and starving the competition out of existence, hence the bare lawn and empty border.

In effect, anything that is planted there will be starved of water and light, a double whammy.

Both problems can be solved quite easily but trying to solve both problems at the same time is difficult and some hard decisions and some hard work is going to be required to get on top of this.

The easiest thing to do would be to get more light into the shaded area. Now, since the beech hedge is essentially Elizabeth’s privacy screen, thinning the hedge is not an option.

Therefore, we are left with thinning out or removing the red Hazel tree. Sometimes, even though we love them, plants and trees can outgrow our gardens.

Secondly, Elizabeth needs to improve the water holding capacity of the soil. Digging the soil over and adding plenty of well-rotted farmyard manure will certainly help the struggling lawn to become lush once more.Elizabeth will still have to use a special shady lawn grass seed though.

I’d recommend planting Aucuba Japonica, Dryopteris, Lamiums, Irisand Hedera varieties into this shaded border of the garden as they look great and will survive well in the hostile conditions they find themselves in. Just give them a good mulch of compost every year to aid water retention.

Although fresh rainwater is always best for irrigating your plants when needed, you can always use ‘grey water’ which is essentially your washing up water to water your plants when it’s really dry.

Now, more importantly, I’ve just managed to peel a large section of dead skin off from between my toes. I wonder if there’s a Guinness world record for this. I’ll Google it as soon as I’ve hoovered the skin flakes off my keyboard and mouse.

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