Garden Advice: creating a large perennial border
Mrs LW. (April 2007)
I want to create a large perennial border in a newly aquired area of my garden. My husband has let me have a small piece of a field on the farm! We are on a very exposed, windy site about 1,100ft above sea level. There is a hedge and dry stone wall around the area, but the soil is extremely poor.
In other areas of the garden I have improved the soil with farm yard manure which we have plenty of. My question is whether you would recommend creating a deep raised bed in order to get some depth of soil. Also, would I have to dig up the turf, or would it be better to spray it and then fill with compost and manure? Someone told me that I could put down cardboard boxes over the grass and then cover with soil. Not sure about this thought, wouldn't the weeds and grass come through?
Bide-A-Wee response (by Mark Robson)
What an exciting project, first things first I would ensure all the proposed cultivated areas are sprayed off with Glyphosate (Roundup) to ensure a total kill of vegetation. Do not dig it in until the foliage is dead as you will just bury the weeds that will regrow into your new plantings. I regard that using chemicals now allows for more organic approach later, as the soil will be clean of weeds to start your project.
If you want the organic approach you will need to securely cover the area with a black plastic membrane and leave for a number of months till the vegetation dies due to lack of light, this method would preclude planting this year.
Dependant on how desperate you are to get started I would deep mulch the area with muck then turn it in as your energy allows, better still if you have the space to get a rotavator on the back of the tractor in to do the job for you.
I would not bother making raised beds but work with the soil you have, cultivation and manuring will in a short period of time give a good workable soil. which has been my experience here at Bide-a-Wee. You do not say if your soil is sand or clay, or if there are drainage issues.
At your sort of elevation shelter is going to be paramount, so plenty of structure planting of shrubs, I would make sure I dug a large hole at least 450mm deep and incorporated plenty of well composted muck, to give each shrub the best start, as well as digging the muck into the top spades depth over the entire bed.
Good luck and happy digging