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Approach this with extreme caution. Do not tear everything up as soon as possible, regardless of whether it is worth retaining or not. It is a wise policy to give it, and yourself, time. Unfamiliar, seemingly dead bushes may transform themselves, in the right season, into a profusion of spring blossom or stunningly variegated leaves. A bed full of brown, twiggy stumps may turn out to be a thoughtfully planned herbaceous border. Bare earth may be concealing a riot of spring bulbs or lilies. The general rule is to give the garden enough time to show you the best it can do. If after a full season, you still feel that certain things aren’t worth retaining or aren’t quite you, then by all means get rid of them.

This advice does not necessarily apply to the shape of an established garden, however. Everyone has preference as to the lines of borders, lawns and other features, and if you want to alter the shape of a certain area, or add something to what is already there, it may be possible to start the work while still evaluating the existing garden.

The main thing, however, is to maintain what you have inherited until you have a clear idea of what you want to do. Keep the plants in good fettle, look after the lawn and stay on top of the weeding. It is not a bad plan, if you are completely new to gardening, to familiarize yourself with what generally constitutes a garden weed. As you get the feel of the garden you will begin to know which plants to leave and which to take out.

If you have a lot to clear out, it may be sensible to hire a skip. However, if you have only a comparatively small amount to dispose of, it might be an idea to find out if you have a local council amenity refuse site or a recycling centre. These are provided by the local authority for residents wishing to dispose of domestic rubbish, and range from very primitive, smelly, messy landfill areas (where you stand a good chance of getting a puncture or stuck in the mud) to skips, compacting bins surrounded by clean concrete roadways and standings and composting receptacles where all you do is dump your gardening waste and the local authority does the rest. They are a godsend to the gardener with rubbish he or she cannot burn or compost but are not so suitable for very large amounts of rubbish because of the problem of carting it to the site — most of these will not take so-called ‘trade refuse’, so hiring a van or lorry might not be a solution, as often the supervisors look on rubbish from commercial type vehicles as ‘trade’. A telephone call to the local environmental health department will tell you what is available and what regulations are in force.

Weeds and green rubbish are suitable for composting. In addition, you are quite likely to have large amounts of leaves at certain times of the year. You can stack these separately to break down slowly into leaf mould. This is similar to compost in colour but drier and more crumbly in texture. As it is often quite acid, it is useful for mulching lime-hating plants, but can be dug into the soil in the usual way for humus. (Note. Do not compost plant remains containing many pests or known to have been diseased. These are best burned if possible, or taken to the tip.)

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