Improving clay

Discussion in 'General Gardening Discussion' started by PeterS, Sep 29, 2007.

  1. Kandy

    Kandy Will be glad to see the sun again soon.....

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    Well done Pete [​IMG] You have done a fantastic job of it.I especially love the photo with the mixture of flowers in all the different colours :cool:
     
  2. PeterS

    PeterS Total Gardener

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    Thanks Kandyfloss. I am only slowly getting to grips with this gardening thing, and still have a long way to go. What I have learnt is :-

    1) Put plants in groups - they have more impact.
    2) Have a colour theme - for me it is blues, pinks and purples.
    3) Have lots of different types - I have about 200 different. They are mostly perennials, so getting a few new ones each year makes the number build.
    4) Concentrate on long flowering plants - some flower for 3, 4, 5 and even six months of the year.
    The garden then does it by itself. If there are lots of different long flowering plants, there always has to be a fair amount of colour.
     
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    • Helofadigger

      Helofadigger Gardener

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      I agree with you there Shiney :D
      Helen.xxx.
       
    • Kristen

      Kristen Under gardener

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      Any update pictures PeterS?
       
    • PeterS

      PeterS Total Gardener

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      Hi Kristen - sorry only just seen your post. Yes I have found some photos. Redoing the front garden was a spur of the moment act. But luckily I had been growing some biennials for the back garden, so these and a few other spare plants and divisions were pressed into use. I only bought about four plants. The purpose of the biennials was to have a go at successional planting ( as per Christopher Lloyd), with early biennials being replaced by later flowering plants.

      [​IMG]
      28 April. Little growth, but the biennials/early plants are showing. Wallflowers. Forget-me-nots, Tulips, Primula and Bellis perennis.

      [​IMG]
      17May. Wallflowers and Tulips still going.

      [​IMG]
      17 May. Three different Heucheras also produce colour - an alternative to using flowers. Red Wallflower and blue Polemonium behind, with a red Bellis in front.

      [​IMG]
      June 13. Both the Lupins and purple Hesperis had been grown the previous year as biennials.

      [​IMG]
      June 28. I think the rain has knocked everything a bit flat.

      [​IMG]
      In the front, purple spikes of Agastache rugosa. which replaced some of the wallflowers - it doesn't mind being lifted, and red Centranthus rubra which has a tap root and cannot be moved. Behind is the pale purple of Salvia sclarea - a biennial which I certainly will be repeating . There are still a few Lupins, some early orange Heleniums, and the beautiful pink Sidalcea.

      [​IMG]
      Most of the Lupins have now been removed and replaced by Cleome and Cosmos - both half hardy annuals sown on May 1st. And the Hesperis replaced by Dahlias. The tall plant at the back is Eupatorium, which has really enjoyed this wet weather. It came from a division last autumn so it will fill out more in future years. On the far right the is the purple Lobelia 'Tanya'.

      Overall its quite an improvement on last year's jungle.
       
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      • Kristen

        Kristen Under gardener

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        "Overall its quite an improvement on last year's jungle."

        No kidding! I think it looks fantastic.

        Is that a Pieris in the gravel? Can't get those to grow here, to alkaline :(
         
      • lollipop

        lollipop Gardener

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        Well Peter, the after pics speak for themselves don`t they. You have every reason to be happy with what you have done there, and after they have slept, crept and leapt you will have to have a rest, you deserve it.
         
      • PeterS

        PeterS Total Gardener

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        Thanks Kristen and Lollipop. Yes that is a Pieris in the gravel. That and a small Azelia were the only two plants salvaged from the old garden.

        The garden is really suffering now from the cold and wet we have had. The early biennials did well, but most have now been replaced by late flowerers from warmer climates. Cosmos, Cleome, Tithonia (tallest is 6 inches - should be 6 foot), Dahlias, and about seven different Salvia species. But they are mostly rubbish. The star was to have been two giant (5 foot high) pink Salvia splendens, grown from seed. But they are still short and have refused to flower.
         
      • lollipop

        lollipop Gardener

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        It should be fine PeterS-we have had a lacklustre season up in the north haven`t we. It all looks subdued in my own little patch as well, lets hope for better things next yr.
         
      • clueless1

        clueless1 member... yep, that's what I am:)

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        Wow. Peter, what an inspiration. What can I say? Its fantastic.

        I've bookmarked this thread. Maybe it should be a sticky or in an FAQ section or something, because I expect there will be a lot of people that didn't realise it was possible to get from compacted clay to what you've achieved. I have a horticultural book written by two top boffins, that suggests clay should be used for shrubs and grass because that's about all it's good for. You've proved otherwise, and inspired at least one person (me) to aim a bit higher.
         
      • Phil A

        Phil A Gardener

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        Hats off to Peter, stering job there.:dbgrtmb:

        Dave, love the idea of making a thread on clay, a sticky. :loll:
         
      • moonraker

        moonraker Gardener

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        Hi,
        I do agree with putting anything organic in the soil ie manure?compost ect but its not always available and it also can cost an arm & a leg to get enough manure to cover a large area,
        But as its now january you have in every woods, every tree lined lane ect one of the best free forms of help you need just sitting there, Leaf-mold,
        Its this time of the year that farmers are removing leaves from the drainage area's of the lanes and im sure they'll be made up if you asked can you take it away,
        Also the winter is again natures way of offering free labour in as much as if you turn the clay over now and let the freezing conditions do its work! you'll be amazed at how much easier the same area will be in the spring to dig and plant the likes of spuds to again break up the clay,

        Now is a good time to dig out your pea trench and put the house hold weekly waste into it and let it rot there, this will be doing a great job in getting this trench ready for the peas to go in later when the weather warms up.
        An allotment is a bit different from a small flower garden, and in your case with so much hard clay i feel you'd be giving yourself a much better & quicker return by making raised beds and this will let you grow from the start of the spring and have a return in veg/salads to show for your efforts.

        Ive seen so many keen gardeners become "shall we say unkeen" because of the hardwork and the time needed to be spent trying to break clay ground and do their normal daily work , remember you've got the old added
        enemy "the weather" to take into account and your just starting your allotment? the other allotment folk are ahead and can afford a slow down due to weather changes.
        Once the spring comes so do the weeds, a raised bed can be kept clear of weeds and produce constant crops from as quickly as you can put together the raised bed, and then if you want you can do a small area at a time of removing the hard clay But while your doing this manual work the raised bed seeds/plants will be growing And tobe honest the sight of at leased one section of the allotment looking tidy really is a sight to give you confidence to do more.

        Give these ideas a bit of thought and if you need any advice ref making raised beds just ask.
         
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        • PeterS

          PeterS Total Gardener

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          Thanks Moonraker. In fact this was done some time ago and did improve the soil a lot - so I haven't needed to do anything since, as I am only growing flowers.
           
        • kels

          kels Gardener

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          Wow hard work. We sorted out our front garden as was about 4 foot high mess when we moved in. Took about 8 weeks to sort out and only when we got it looking well. Started having problems getting in and out the front drive.So we are in the process of building a reverse section in the front. We will be keeping bedding areas around the outside and hopefully some individual sections towards the wall at the front.We also need to sort the clay soil out to be able to put a variety of plants out the front. Will do that after the front has been laid.At the moment this weekend we took 1/4 of the grass out the front.What a nightmare that was trying to do it in between heavy rain here. All I can say is well done you its hard work but will pay off in the end great pics :)
           
        • PeterS

          PeterS Total Gardener

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          Thanks Kels. Looking back - really the only time that you get an opportunity to improve clay is when you are doing the whole area from scratch - so its well worth doing as much as you can at the time. Once you have started to grow plants in the bed its very difficult to add things like grit and sharp sand in any quantity.

          I hope you are taking some pictures to show us when its finished.
           
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