Destruction of the Dog Resistant Garden

flowers in dog resistant garden august 2012
Flowers in DRG previous life

The dog resistant garden (DRG) was enclosed when our first dog Douglas was a youngster.  He did like to ‘help’ – dig where I was digging, and so on.  I constructed a windbreak fence around what was then mostly a vegetable garden in the front garden.  Over the years this evolved, first into a flower garden with the idea I night grow flowers for the shop, and then into a shrubbery with interesting edibles.  Now with Douglas gone and Dyson a mature dog, the fencing had seen better days and I was finding the square corners of the garden annoying.  I took down the majority of the enclosure in the spring and recently took out all of the fence posts.  The original paths no longer go where I want to wander, and the soil levels between the DRG and the barn bank were humped according to where the soil had been moved when the roadway above the barn (known as Lara’s road after our croft-Rover was parked there for a while) was excavated.

better days
Fences collapsing

Over the last few weeks I have been energised to level the soil and re-landscape the area and plant up with some of the plants I have been propagating.  Dyson was a bit of a nuisance helping when I was levelling the soil.  He is generally very good, but when something is scraped over the ground, like a broom, rake or vaccuum cleaner, he likes to bite the head of the implement.  That’s all very well for those implements, but when it came to biting at the mattock head as I was chopping the turf, I had to put him inside out of harm’s way.  I cleared the soil off the barn road bank to stop it falling in, making a precarious walkway.

levelling off
Levelling soil with more or less dog help

It was a bit of hard work to clear the old paths out of the DRG.  I had laid woven weed membrane along the paths, and when it was a vegetable garden I had transferred stones I found whilst digging to the paths.  These stones had then been covered with soil, so there was quite a bit of grass and the odd docken or raspberry growing through it.  I have pulled it all up now I hope.  One of my friends in the glen has a new polytunnel and they may be able to reuse the weed membrane, since it seems to be in pretty good condition overall, as long as they don’t mind a bit of cleaning.

removing seed membrane
Removing weed membrane

I marked out the new paths, including a curved one through the DRG, with bits of wood from the old fencing.  Some of the old telegraph poles that had acted as retaining walls for the raised central bed of the DRG were used to create a border to one side of the main path that curves round to the secret garden.  I could do with a quantity of wood chippings to cover the path with and weigh down some newspaper to keep the weeds down there.

swales
Swales and marked out paths

Having levelled the soil, I then proceded to mound it up again between the path and Lara’s road edge.  Three banks were formed perpendicular to the prevailing wind direction.  Hopefully this will create wetter sheltered parts and drier more exposed parts at least in the short term.  The whole area is fairly well sheltered and shaded by the sycamores in the front garden, and this shelter should increase as the shrubs I have planted start to grow.

The final steps I have done so far have been to lay out the plants and shrubs and plant them.  I dug up some self heal and sorrel with particularly large leaves from the tree field and transplanted these to act as ground cover.  Most of the plants however are ones I have propagated myself.  I was going to plant out the two Gevuina avellana seedlings that have survived being repotted and are doing pretty well, but I decided that they are still perhaps a bit small to plant out.  I did plant out some of the plum yews I have (both japanese plum yew; Cephalotaxus harringtonia and chilean plum fruited yew; Prumnopitys andina, which were bought as seedlings.  Again they are pretty small, so I hope they will do alright in the ground.  I need both male and female plants to survive if I want to get fruit in future.  The Miscanthus grass is the other plant I recently bought.  I’m hoping to divide it in future years to screen the barn and create a bit more quick growing shelter if it likes it here.  I was very impressed with it at the East Devon Forest Garden when I visited a few years ago.  The one I bought from Edulis when I was visiting my Mum last year got a bit swamped by the nettles in the early part of this year, but also seems to be surviving so far.  I’ve put in about 6 asparagus that haven’t found a home yet, some blackcurrant seedlings which had self seeded in the pallet garden and various known and unknown plants that may do alright there and are big enough to plant out.  When I’ve finished planting I will create an annotated planting picture like I did for the drivebank.

final layout
Final layout

Still to do is to mulch between the plants, lay down paper and chippings on the main path, level the curved path in the DRG, and mulch between the DRG and the main path.  I may try and seed some of the area that is less likely to resprout turf since it was dug quite deeply.  I’ll leave replanting the other side of the path for a while to try and clear some of the weeds.  These are not buried enough to stop them regrowing, so need a thick mulch for a few months, maybe till next autumn.

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