96 Church Walk  Burgess Hill   RH15 9AS

''This is my second item from the North and what a couple of months it has been. It still rains at least once a week and so I have decided to put on hold my ideas for installing drip irrigation around the garden. I need to be here a while longer to ascertain if the weather these last few months is typical or not normal. I know the weather patterns are changing countrywide, so I will keep an open mind for present. 

  Well I have now worked out what the soil type is after digging down over a spit and not coming across the subsoil yet, double digging the veg plot was never my favourite pastime so I will stop at this current depth.

  The soil is very dark almost black in colour and has a sandy gritty feel to it. When compressed in my hand it sticks together and retains the shape of a sausage, so it is a loamy sand with more loam than sand in it.

  The ground with all the rain on it has, after it has stopped raining, drained any surface water away within a quarter of an hour. I bought a PH soil testing kit and it has 15 tests worth of chemical available. So I tested various areas of the garden as the chemical potency does not last too long once opened.

  The PH level is consistent at either 6.0, 6.5 or 7.0 so slightly acidic to neutral. Camellias need nothing higher than 5.5 PH so will not grow them here, was thinking of an autumn flowering variety to avoid the early frosts which cause issues with the spring flowering varieties, may grow one in a large pot at some time, we will see.

  The soil here means that I am in heaven as no sign of clay anywhere. The only drawback is that this type of soil is hungry and needs constant feeding with humus rich compost.

  I have always had a compost heap in my gardens and this one is no exception. I have invested in a type of composter that uses high temperatures to aid the decomposition process and can get up to temperatures of 60 degrees C, which will mean that I can compost plant material such as tap roots if chopped up small and so we will see if this is effective.

  The container uses the heat generated within the compost to get to these temperatures and no outside heat source is required. The base layer required to start the heating up process is 18 inches deep (45 cm) and I have not quite got there yet.  I will report back on how I am getting on with this process in further articles.

  The plan of attack on the garden is to sort out the front garden area first and then attend to the back garden later in the growing season. To this end I have drawn a plan of the front area to scale and compiled a list of plants per bed.

  The lawn will have a border at top and bottom of it, one under the front room window and one alongside the pavement. The houses around here have a covenant on them saying no hedges or other items such as high fences are allowed, so people delineate their property with herbaceous planting, which does look nice I must say.

  The third bed which runs beside the concrete drive at present is landscape fabric covered with gravel to a serious depth and when we get out of the car we use it to walk to the front door as the driveway is quite narrow for modern car widths, so will stay but will be spruced up a bit with some planting that can be trodden on occasionally.

  The window bed will measure 14 feet 6 ins by 3 feet (4m 42cm by 91cm) when I take off the grass that is already there. The plants that I am thinking of using are from left to right; Hosta ‘Blue Wedgewood’, Brunera Macrophilia ‘Jack Frost’, Heuchera ‘Scintillation’ or ‘Coral Cloud’, Cinerraria ‘Silver Dust’ and Hosta ‘Hapsden Blue’.

  The Hostas will be bookends for the border and are thick leaved and not loved by slugs and snails as they find it too tough. We will see if this is correct. The Hostas provide a glaucous bluey colour with the leaf and the Brunera and Cinerraria provide a silver/white leaf to lighten up the area which is north facing and shady.

  The Heuchera provides a pink flower but a brilliant apple green leaf which should also be reflected onto the white/silver plants nearby. Time will tell on that question.   Whilst these plants are getting established and up to full size I will also add some annuals so that the bed does not have patches of soil exposed and so encourage weeds to grow. What they will be I have not thought off yet but will probably wait until the main plants are in next Spring before I finally decide.

  This gives me ample time to source the seed and I can also change the annuals used each year to give the bed a fresh look until the plants are big enough to fill the whole space.  

  The bed by the pavement will also be 14 feet 6ins by 2 feet this time (4m 42cm by 61cm) as it will be filled with plants that can take some hard knocks such as   Campanula carpatica ‘Chewton Joy’, Campanula carpatica ‘Blue Moonlight’, Campanula medium var. Calycamthema (common name for this one is either ‘cup and saucer’ or Canterbury Bell), and lastly Camapanula cochlearifolia ‘Fairy Thimble’. These plants although all from the same family look different as the size of leaf and flower (although all blue) are in different colour shades.   

  They will be planted in threes across the length and depth of the bed and repeated until the bed is full. So again I will need to source the seed over the winter and sow in late winter and keep under protection until planted out in Spring. That is all for now and thanks for reading.''       Colin

 Look out for more from you northern correspondent as the gardening year progresses.

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