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New Year, New Border


It’s a new year so it must be time for a new border – not that I restrict myself to just one annually. Unfortunately, I don’t really have a “before” picture, but imagine a narrow strip in front of a lounge bay window that was previously filed with some boring euonymus, dead heather and weedy grass. It’s in the front garden, visible to all who pass and to all who visit. It’s a miserable eye-sore and it has to be re-vamped.

First step is to take everything out, all of it. No use fiddling around any existing plants that you might want to keep. It all has to go, the weeds, the dead plants and that dull euonymus. Take it right back to a blank canvas:

Front Bay Border Cleared

This is no time for small mercies – the only thing to save is that wire coming out through the window, anchored by the brick and running under the gravel to power the christmas lights at the front. The soil level was a little high (see the damp course), so it was round with the wheelbarrow to take out several loads of soil to lower the level. Once that was one, it was time to add the rocket fuel:

Front Border Fertilised

This plant fuel is a mix of bonemeal for slow release fertiliser for the roots, potash to help flowering and wood ripening and Gro-More general fertiliser to cover everything else. When that was done, I ungracefully carted round several bags of manure and compost that would have been light as a feather had they not been saturated with all the rain we’ve had. Tipping those in, I brought out a brand new toy that will effortlessly mix it all in without back-breaking manual digging.

Mantis and the Border

I was exceedingly happy and bouncing off the walls when I received an electric tiller as a present to help me mix and work the soil in the borders that I’m making. I used it for the side border and I used it again to mix the fertiliser, manure, compost and soil together in this new front border. The tiller mixes and blends the soil to a tilth so fine it’s to die for. Five 80 ltr bags of manure and three 60 ltr bags of compost went into this small section and by the time I had mixed it all in with this baby, you could only tell by looking very closely. The tiller is like a whisk that blends the ingredients and whips air into the soil, it creates a wonderful light, airy, crumbly textured soil (given the right mix of manure, soil and compost) and is perfect to break up heavy compaction. For me, this is very important as the soil we have is heavy, easily waterlogged, compacted and starved of air. The disadvantage of the tiller is that it isn’t worm friendly, but I’m hoping that there will be some that survived and will eventually re-colonise in this rejuvenated soil.

Front Bay Border Ready for PlantingThe best bit at the end was inserting the bamboo skewers into the ground to imagine where I want to plant the roses that I have earmarked for this space. It’s going to mean an online trip to David Austin (I love their English roses and have several already). I have (perhaps over enthusiastically) marked out space for seven of them. I say there’s no point in being mean about it; I want this border to be overflowing with roses, the brick wall at the edge barely able to contain the shrubs. There’s enough fuel in the ground to get them going, all I need now is to decide which ones I want, get them ordered and wish for a weekend with some decent weather to get them in the ground and get them growing away. I wonder if they will flower in the same season?

I’ve been looking forward to sorting out this border for ages and I’m so excited that I am nearly there with another border, reclaimed and restored.

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Sunil Patel

I'm Sunil Patel, this is me. I created the Garden at 13 Broom Acres and I open it to visitors. I also bake and write blog posts giving a "behind the scenes" look into what it's like to maintain such a garden.

Visit the blog, then come and visit the garden. We can have a good sit-down, a jolly chinwag and a relaxing cup of tea with a sinfully generous slice of home made cake.

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Ann Higgins 02/02/2015 - 4:49 pm

Hi Sunil,

I’m not sure exactly how I found my way to your blog, but I’m enjoying it every much, especially your “scientific” approach to gardening. I’m a bit more laissee faire myself but still end up arranging plants in 3s, unless I consciously stop myself.

BTW, I think that after a few years, you may find that 7 rose bushes are a bit much for that bed – you could try putting in fewer and infilling with some herbaceous plants while the roses fill out. I only say that as I am now grappling with my own borders which I over-planted 10 years ago – if only I’d listened to my own advice.

Best Wishes anyway,


Sunil 04/02/2015 - 7:27 pm

Hello Ann, I’m, glad you’re enjoying reading these posts. If you look through the history you’ll see a very different garden before February 2014, this was my original, first garden, which I was in for five years. We recently moved to a much larger garden and I am chronicling the “restoration” of this garden (one border at a time) into something along the lines of what I used to have. I always tend to over-plant, my “style” is to have a garden that looks as through it’s continually on the verge of falling into chaos.

lynngator 02/02/2015 - 6:50 pm

Sunil, Love that tiller. What a perfect present for you and your garden. The bed looks so inviting and I know those Austin roses will thrive there. Can’t wait to hear what you ordered. Spring is just around the corner! Yay!

Sunil 04/02/2015 - 7:22 pm

Hi Lynn, the tiller is great, it can turn the soil over much better and quicker than I can do by hand. You’l find out what roses I’ve got in store for this bed in the next post. Stay tuned!

gardeninacity 02/02/2015 - 8:29 pm

Beautiful job! Now you just need to add some plants. And I’m sure the worms will reappear in any soil rich in organic matter.

Sunil 04/02/2015 - 7:23 pm

Hello Jason, I’m hoping the worms will return soon enough, that’s the only downside about using a tiller, but it’s a one-hit then that’s it. From now on it should be just light digging and mulching.

casa mariposa 05/02/2015 - 1:37 am

Your bed looks awesome and the worms will come back. 🙂 When I moved here the soil was so wretched I bought worm eggs and scattered them in the soil to help improve it. Those lucky roses will thrive in their new spot. Geez, I am dying to get in the garden and get dirty! Tired of winter…

Sunil 05/02/2015 - 6:11 pm

Hello Tammy, worm eggs – that’s a god idea, I could try that to get them “re-introduced”. They should settle in very well there. I can imagine them coming in miniature egg cartons.

Jean 02/03/2015 - 3:37 am

I can’t wait to see what you do with this. What are the dimensions of the border?

Sunil 03/03/2015 - 7:36 pm

Hello Jean, this part in front of the bay window is a narrow strip under a metre wide and about four or five metres long, depending on where you take the edges so it’s tiny in the scheme of the whole garden, but it makes a big impact as it’s in the front and highly visible and what was there before was so drab.


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