Learning to Garden (4) – Walls and Roots

Our home is located on the western slope of an suburban valley where we are sheltered from the prevailing winds.  The garden is a little larger than the average for the area, in part this is due to the slope which causes the highest point on the property to be at least seventy feet above the lowest.  Maybe this is not the optimum layout, but most of the garden gets some sunshine, more so on the northern edge than on the southern one.  The property is a series of terraces which are kept in place by walls with two large ones at the front and back and yet more walls to the left and right.

Over the past five years these walls have been a sink for both time and money.  Sometime back we bought a dog, whilst dog/owner relations are now good, I occasionally cook him pasta and he sometimes barks to warn me that nothing is happening but when he arrived he was a nightmare. Almost his first act was to dig into the top most terrace where the retaining wall was more or less fictional.  It took the better part of two tons of concrete blocks, sand and cement and a lot of shoveling to persuade that part of the garden to return to its original location.  This was followed by some desultory patching or other walls when it could not be avoided.  Then a couple of years back, the top section of the big retaining wall at the front of the house crumbled.

Fixing this wall became a DIY project with scaffolding,  Climbing up to the platform was a good start to the day and as there was a theatrical element which I enjoyed.  Being late middle aged and not a brick layer, I used a small pointing trowel, rather than a big one like the the young, fit blokes.  I was quite upset when a woman in a black Mercedes, stopped in front of my scaffolding and shouted “you’ve got a very small trowel”, then wound up the driver’s side window and drove off. Strange but true.  A decent builder could have done the job in a week, whilst it I spent more than a month on it, but I was able to linger over re-instating the iron railings.

As the old wall was removed brick by brick, it became apparent that the wall had crumbled because the cavity was full of roots.  One of the side walls has also had to be extensively repaired recently, the picture below shows the sections of tree that were found embedded in the flint and mortar.

Last year I moved a gooseberry bush from the back garden to the one in front and put it about half a meter from the wall.  This year I cleared earth away from the foundations so I could replace crumbling ash mortar only to find that the gooseberry bush had got there first.

The lesson seems to be that when planting anything think about what is likely to happen below the surface.  Sometimes plants take root in places you really don’t want them:

Getting rid of this one was expensive.

Weekending 18-Oct-2015

Took six cuttings from a blackcurrant bush that has recently been moved.  All I did was to cut  20 cm from the top of one of the stems and push it into a pot containing seed compost.  I did much the same last year and got three viable plants.  I need to learn how to take cuttings from a gooseberry bush.


About SolarBucket

I trained as a mechanical engineer in the 1970's and then spent most of the following 25 years doing sums and software for Oil and Gas Exploration. Current interests are the study of wind and solar resources.
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