Extreme gardening

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pigeonpie

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Extreme gardening
« on: May 13, 2018, 14:21 »
After moving to the Outer Hebrides at the end of last year I'm now trying to get back to some veg growing.  Obviously conditions are very different from Northamptonshire where I used to grow so I know that there's going to be a lot of experimenting and no doubt a fair few failures.
I have got plans to have a Polycrub installed for the majority of my future growing, and will be developing the garden bit by bit, but I'm keen to get a few bits going before then.

The two biggest issues we have to contend with is wind, and rabbits.  I will be trying to establish a shelter belt, and will install wind netting where possible, and I have plans to use a fenced lazy bed system (a local equivalent to the ridge and furrow fields down south) for some crops outside. In the meantime I have fixed some wind netting to the raised decked area (hoping the rabbits aren't high jumpers) and I've planted some carrots, beetroot, parsnips, and swede in big tubs. I've also got some kale, courgettes, squashes, green beans, lettuce, and spring onions on the go on a warm sunny windowsill.

Yesterday I planted out some herbs, having spent a good few hours swearing as I removed some turf (it was really matted and tough!), and my standard bay tree that I brought up with me seems to be coping with the wind as yet...

I'm really looking forward to seeing what will grow, what will survive the wind, and how easy or difficult it is to out smart the rabbits!

So, any suggestions of other things I might be able to try (bearing in mind the lateness in the season, and tall crops are a no-no) and especially of crops that rabbits seem to leave alone, will be gratefully received...

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Goosegirl

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Re: Extreme gardening
« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2018, 14:27 »
Yeah! I live on flat farmland about a mile from the Irish Sea and appreciate the problems you are facing. I don't have a rabbit problem as I have three cats, but it's not just the winds that cause damage, it's the salt in them as well. As you say, some sort of shelter is a must. One of my dear friends lives in an old cottage that's actually on the shore and I couldn't believe her garden when I first saw it. From the gate you go down a few steps and then there's a big patio area, a huge lawn surrounded by flower beds, and a veg garden at the back. Our winds come mainly from the south-west, so around the south and west sides it's sheltered by what I think are some sort of pine trees that created a little wood on the south side plus a little shelter belt on the west by the little cottage wall. You're doing the right thing by using something that allows the winds to go through it that slows them down rather than a solid barrier which makes it worse. I don't know what type of soil you have but ours is mainly alluvial silt. What survives here are hawthorns, blackthorns, willows, elders, alders, hazels, Cornus, and Rosa rugosa. Our hawthorn hedge needed wind netting to get it established (get bare-rooted plants and don't faff when planting it, just dig a deep divot and bung it in like our farmers did), and I like the ridge and furrow approach. After seeming to struggle in the past, my Bay tree is doing very well and needs a good prune each year. Love to know how you get on.
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pigeonpie

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Re: Extreme gardening
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2018, 12:29 »
That's a very good point about the salt in the wind, I'd thought about it when thinking about developing flower borders (not that that particular project is going to be started anytime soon!), and the trees,  but hadn't thought about in relation to veg growing. We're only about 50 metres from the sea loch in front of us, so everything does get a coating of salt spray on a fairly regular basis.

I had hoped to get some shelter belt trees in this year, but I've been advised that it's better planting them in the spring up here, rather than the autumn, allowing them time to establish some roots before the worst of the autumn and winter storms. It makes sense - a rogue tulip (that had managed to sneak its way into some daffodils that I planted) was actually blown out of the ground a week or so ago, and it was only about 40mph winds that day!

Luckily we have beautiful peaty soil, and a plentiful supply of seaweed for fertiliser. We're in the process of digging out the drainage ditches, and working out where to put some extra ones, to help with the drainage as it does lay a bit wet in place. I have plans for some cranberry plants in the wet areas, and possibly some blue berries where it's a bit damp.

Gardening in such a place is very exciting, if a little more challenging. I can't wait to see what will and won't grow!

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pigeonpie

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Re: Extreme gardening
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2018, 12:32 »
On the plus side, this is the view from my current raised planting area.
IMG_8139.JPG

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snowdrops

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Re: Extreme gardening
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2018, 13:29 »
Lovely view
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Goosegirl

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Re: Extreme gardening
« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2018, 14:02 »
Stunning! Believe it or not we're going on a Hebridean cruise next year which will take us to St. Kilda and around where you are so will give you a royal wave as we pass! As you know, peaty soil is acidic but can easily be made more alkaline with agricultural lime to suit whatever you wish to plant that wouldn't normally grow in those conditions. I'm still thinking of pines (Scot's pine or whatever) as some conifers can do well in peaty soils and hawthorns (also called Quickthorn for its ability to - er - grow quickly) would also do as long as you protectthem with strong netting secured onto firm posts. Don't worry if their leaves go a bit brown as they should recover. I've attached a pic taken of Cockersand Abbey in the late 19th-20th century and my cottage is about a mile inland from the site. Hawthorns trees were growing there during the time of the Abbey (12th century onwards) so they're stalwart little fellows and should help to provide the shelter you need.   
Abbey 1923 18735 - Copy edit.jpg

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pigeonpie

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Re: Extreme gardening
« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2018, 14:45 »
Oh Goosegirl, the Hebridean cruise and visit to St Kilda sounds lovely! Hope you have good sea legs though, it tends to be a bit choppy out these parts 🤢

I shall certainly be hoping to plant some Hawthorn, and some conifers, as they should cope with the conditions. Husband hates hawthorn, he's been stabbed by it far too often when hedge cutting down south, so might have to sneakily plant it!

I'd also like to think about trees that will provide us with some firewood in the future, so wondering how hazel might do as we could then coppice it.

I've also seen a fair amount of birch, alder, and willow up here, as well as variants of sorbus and cornus. The willow I've seen appears to be bog willow, mainly being used to help soak up some of the wetter areas. There's also another tree that I have yet to identify. I'll try and get a picture and ask on here!

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al78

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Re: Extreme gardening
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2018, 17:36 »
On the plus side, this is the view from my current raised planting area.

That will be on the one day of summer.  :D

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Goosegirl

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Re: Extreme gardening
« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2018, 15:25 »
The trees you mentioned also grow here along the inner edges of the dykes at either side of our lane. There's also blackthorn which provides sloes for making Sloe Gin! Willows are great for drying out wet places but should not be planted any where near a building as they can cause subsidence. Trees that you can coppice are Hazel, Cornus, Hornbeam, Alder, Ash, Beech, Birch, and Willows, though you will have to wait quite a while for them to get big enough to provide you with firewood! In the meantime, you could always have fun using the previous year's growth to make woven trugs, baskets, little low fences, make a basic frame by securing some posts into the ground then attach and weave the stems around the sides and over the roof to make a shady arbour. One thing I'd love to have a go at is making a diddy house by putting wooden posts in to form the shape, making several panels by weaving these stems around small branches which are then attached to the main structure (one on the outside and one inside), making a mix of manure, straw and lime (just Giggle the recipe) then whacking it on and really pushing it in between all the spaces, let it harden. then cover it with lime-wash.     

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pigeonpie

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Re: Extreme gardening
« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2018, 10:53 »
I've seen those kind of structures Goosegirl, and they look really good fun to try and make. I'm pretty sure nothing like that would stand up to a our winds, but I'd be keen to do some willow work. Years ago I did a workshop on working with withy (the young green willows), and making lanterns and sculptures with it by covering in glue and tissue paper, they looked fab! It was initially all part of a lights festival for bonfire night, and we as a family ended up enjoying it so much we made a ghostly galleon one year, and my personal favourite Wilhelmina the ghostly lady! She was about 7ft high and lived in our living room until the procession day when she was then burnt on the fire. I don't think I've ever got over it! 😆

Interestingly I've not yet seen any blackthorn over here, but can't understand why it wouldn't grow, and I'm willing to try anything (especially if it then means I can make more sloe gin!)

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Goosegirl

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Re: Extreme gardening
« Reply #10 on: May 19, 2018, 14:38 »
Blackthorns (Prunus spinosa) should withstand salty winds but like all the other trees they will need some sort of protection. If you think of how our coastline has eroded over time, the "mother" trees gave enough shelter to protect their their "offspring" until they were established. All these trees and bushes can be bought quite cheaply in bundles consisting of bare-rooted plants which you can put in where you want. With the cold weather that has slowed down the growth of many things I'd get some now and give it a go.   



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