Penultimate Border Prepared for Planting

Back in May this year I made a concerted effort to restore the large border under the large Goat Willow tree. It was essentially the “plan” or “mission statement” for this season. This area was used as a dumping ground over the years for all manner of garden rubbish, but this year saw most of that rubbish finally disappear either into the compost heap, the council compost bin, a skip and even into smoke. As the rubbish gradually cleared, it finally allowed me to work on this Willow border without fear of dumping more rubbish onto it and hence going back to square one, as has happened several times before.

There was quite a long list of jobs for this border before it was even clear:

  1. Deal with the bamboo tops (tie into sheaves for kindling)
  2. Deal with the bamboo canes (needed a proper storage area)
  3. Move the rose (temporarily heel in elsewhere)
  4. Deal with the detritus on the ground
  5. Take out the perennial weeds
  6. Clear out the large twigs and small branches (top up the wood-chip paths)
  7. Take out the Chaenomeles tangled in the fencing
  8. Take out the self-seeded trees
  9. Take out the fence and fence posts – unify the two parts of the border
  10. Level the ground

Most of these jobs spun out other jobs that I had to briefly be distracted with before I could get back to working on the border. After the border was finally clear, it was time to define a proper edge to it:

  1. Lay hardwood sleeper along the back from the Goat Willow to the Scots Pine to form a path edge and fill with wood chips
  2. Mark the border and dig down with the edging iron to define the edge
  3. Turn the grass sods over and cover with landscape fabric to kill them
  4. Get in a pallet of rockery stone and use to mark the curved part of the border between the pine trees where the ground is chock-full of tree roots

Once that lot was done – which included quite a few material deliveries and some small amount of DIY, it was time to add soil to the border. As this border is under the trees, we couldn’t dig down like we normally do but essentially have to use a “no dig” method and just pile soil on top.

  1. Decant the compost in the compost heap into the border
  2. Shift the remaining bulk bags of compost and manure sat on the drive to this border
  3. Sprinkle the contents of the Growmore and Bonemeal tubs throughout the border
  4. Uncover the dead grass sods, knock the soil off, sift it and spread throughout the border
  5. Mix the whole lot in thoroughly with the electric tiller

With the various composts, manures and fertiliser all added to the border and mixed in, it was time for the pre-polish:

  1. Sculpt the border surface to be relatively smooth, sloping down to the front
  2. Add a (currently un-official) cross-wise path to access the border

It felt like there was a staggering amount of preparation needed for this border before the soil could even go on. I haven’t taken measurements, but this penultimate border is probably the second-largest in the garden. It’s a close call between this one and Fruit Avenue.

I’m currently in a slight state of shock that after many years of seeing this area of the garden as a dumping ground, it’s actually now a border ready for planting and ready to join the rest of the restored areas of the garden. There may be just a few more things that I need to do such as:

  1. Lay in a soaker host throughout the border – if the Landing Pad is any indication of how dry the border can get during summer
  2. Decide whether to make the path official with proper edging and wood-chip filling

The trees have worked well with marking the edges of this border and the stone edging is a cosmetic cheat to mark the border edge without having to dig down and damage the tree roots (it would have been very difficult to do this close up to the pines anyway). The tree stump is inherited and it must have been a very large tree before it was felled – most likely another Goat Willow. The fungus growing out of it is the first time we have seen it. It’s a kind of bracket fungus, not likely to be edible, definitely not wanting to try.

While this penultimate border is now pretty much ready for planting, we will wait until Autumn, when we’ve hopefully had some rain to put some moisture back into the soil, before moving plants into this space. There’s a fairly long waiting list of plants from the patio and other parts of the garden so I’m not expecting too many trips to the garden centre.

In terms of my attention, this border is now “done” and I can already feel it start to shift to the final and largest border in the garden waiting to be worked.


  1. You’ve put a ton of work into that border and it will be glorious when it’s planted! It’s been awesome watching your garden transformed by your hard work.


    1. Thanks, Tammy, I can’t wait to start planting it but I need to wait until the autumn. There are a lot of plants in pots on the patio that are due to go here. I splashed out (as it were) on a soaker hose to avoid problems with trying to get plants to establish when it refuses to rain for months on-end.


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