The Natural Garden

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Be at one with nature…

A natural garden encourages birds, bees and butterflies – and frogs, toads and lizards to a friendly environment.

Letting a garden go back to nature doesn’t always achieve this result. Sometimes nature needs a little help…..

Some years ago, my partner and I bought an acre of neglected woodland in France.

The land had been left to it’s own devices for many years and the undergrowth and overgrowth had become so entangled, the whole area was slowly dying.

For a natural garden to develop, it needs to breathe. When the brambles get going around young trees, it won’t be long before they are strangling the tree and eventually kill it. Brutal huh?! Deciding what must stay and what must go isn’t always easy.
First get rid of the heavy duty predators! Get them under control, or they will control you! Limit a bramble patch to a small area of the garden and cut back every year after fruiting. Enjoy the wild blackberries, or leave them to the birds – the choice is yours.

The same with nettles – Nettles are great in a natural garden. Not only do they encourage butterflies, they are also a good source of human nourishment – Nettles are high in iron and vitamin C and make great soup! BUT they will take over the whole plot if not contained. Again, limit their growth.

If you have a number of trees in your garden, serious decisions are needed. Don’t cut in haste! Be prepared to lose a few trees along the way though. We were obliged to cut down a number of large trees and it was heart wrenching to see them lying on the floor. BUT they were stealing light from the land and worse – leaning on other trees, passing on viruses, lifting the tiles off the roof of the house! etc;

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When we started making sense of our woodland/giant bramble patch, the task was enormous and we approached the ‘natural garden’ project on a day to day basis, discovering forgotten paths, fruit trees the birds had obviously planted, wild flowers we had no names for, luminous green lizards, and even the odd snake skin, shed by a rather large snake I guess!

We wanted to create a natural garden from a natural mess. Nature hadn’t been kind to our acre of land, and it was up to us to put it right. What a responsibility!!
Our priorities were WITH nature and not against it, so we went with the lay of the land as much as possible, and now the garden feeds us as well as much of the local wildlife.

We have hazelnut trees but also many red squirrels = NO hazelnuts for us!

There are frogs all over the garden although we still haven’t got a ‘proper’ pond. The frogs live in the vegetable patch and do a great job of keeping the slugs under control.

Creating a natural garden relies more on common sense than great horticultural experience. Keep nature in mind at all times while you plan your garden. Consider:

*wildflowers

*friendly creatures ( frogs, toads etc;)

*the natural lay of the land

*controlling brambles and nettles

*using trees for shade ( adjust seating areas perhaps )

Water is the key to life!

Whatever you do don’t forget the water supplies. Rather than battling with hoses, sprinklers and complicated watering systems, try collecting rain water!

We’ve used this system for years in our garden and it truly works. We keep a water butt next to the greenhouse, and direct the water from the roof through odd scraps of guttering and old pipe.

The reflection from the glass of the greenhouse also warms the water slightly – much better for the small greenhouse plants than direct cold tap water…brrrr!

Find an old plastic container, with a lid to avoid drowning stray mice, cats or hedgehogs. Rig up your water collecting system as best you can. It may take a little trial and error, but persistence will conquer all!

A water storage system is a MUST-HAVE in your natural garden – practical and environment friendly.

Creating a natural garden isn’t just a question of letting nature ‘take its course’. Help it along a little…and you will gain many hours of pleasure from your wild outdoor space – So will the butterflies and bees 🙂 Plant some flowers in strategic places round the garden. Or go for the natural look and save a space for a mini-flower meadow! These wildflower collections are available at Thompson & Morgan UK – the seeds are such a good price, it’s worth having a go at growing flowers even if you have a small space available.

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Cornfield Mixture (UK)

Happy Gardening!
Linda x

P.S. Don’t forget to create some seating areas so you can relax and enjoy the moment as often as you can 🙂

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