Still no real gardening but some progress

For months I have not been able to do any real gardening (at least not in any satisfying quantity).  Ever since the broken-wall-saga began, my muddy horticultural endeavours have mostly involved shifting tonnes of soil down a very slippery hill.

BUT – the end is sort of in sight.

The wall has been fixed and at virtually no extra cost, the builder added some decking that significantly extended the size of the patio area.  It is one big blank canvas waiting to be festooned with flowers and plants.  The Highland weather has conspired to foil my attempts to seal the deck and paint the wall, but viewed from the top, it seems at first glance that my work is done and I can at last return to real gardening.  (Which means planting things, of course).

new patio

Shiny new patio and non-broken wall

Ah, if only that were true.  My devotion to frugality and desire to recycle the materials into the garden meant I did not waste money shifting stone into skips and dumping it.  Afterall, lots of stone is super-useful, especially if you garden on an unterraced slope.  Think of all the things I could do with a few tonnes of rubble.  From the warmth of my bed I’ve dreamt of the charming steps I will build, the delightful stone terraces hewn from the hill and the little nook with a sunny bench.  Hooray!

And now those dreams are just a few more tonnes-of-soil-shifting-in-the-freezing-rain-while-humping-huge-great-breezeblocks-around-and-falling-in-the-mud away.  I’ve been on an erratic cycle veering between excitement and despair, blind optimism and defeated exhaustion, denial and fantasy.  But I haven’t actually done that much work yet.  The task that would most cheer me up, painting the wall, is not yet possible due to the wet weather and the concrete still settling.  And building steps and cutting terraces isn’t something you can pull off in an afternoon.  (Note to self – it ISN’T something you can pull off in an afternoon, not even on Boxing Day).

So, I’ve been trying to rationalise the task into manageable steps.  This involves a lot of standing and thinking and a fair amount of comedic slipping over.  Clear the walkway by shifting mud.  Move the rubble.  Collect hardcore for the base of steps.  Cry.  Be fiercely cheery.  Dig randomly.  Drink a lot of tea.  Move some stones.  Rush out to buy trellis and plants (NO! Not yet!)  Drink tea.  Move some mud.  Fall over.

under the patio

So there must be a way to break this task down into manageable chunks

It looks like hell and everything I do just now makes it look worse, not better.  It’s winter, it’s dark, it’s raining and blowing a gale – but, ever the optimist, I’m sure things will be fine by Spring.  I might even get to garden again (eventually).

The fact the ground isn’t frozen is a big bonus. So in the meantime, I’ll just keep shifting one stone at a time and bucket after bucket of mud.  And of course, I’ll keep drinking lots of tea (well it helps me resist the planting temptation).

Some semblance of normality still seems very far away. But oh, what potential 😉

The destruction and reconstruction begins

Over the last 7 or 8 weeks my gardening activity has largely consisted on shifting top soil and lugging heavy pots around. My shoulders and arms are looking pretty buff.  All this has been in preparation for getting the cracked retaining wall fixed.

broken wall

one smash of the hammer

Top soil has been lifted, compost bins and plastic greenhouses shifted and the patio completely cleared of benches, pots and plants.

And now the work is under way!

It was quite disconcerting that a single blow of the builder’s mallet had this effect!  Makes me shudder to think of the hours spent directly in the firing line of those bricks.

In just two days of work, the guys have largely removed the old wall, dug out a large part of the patio – and have wisely come up with a proposal that should gain me a few more feet of flat space by adding a small deck extension to the patio level.  Room for more plants!

View with the wall removed

It’s surprising how much view has opened up with the top of the wall having been removed, so it will excellent to replace it with open decking rather than a solid wall.  And hopefully it will mean more sunlight too!

The builders have kindly indulged my rabid recycling tendencies and have put all the old bricks aside so I can level out parts of the garden at a later point. But, in the short term, its mud, rocks, bricks and general chaos!

Mud, stones and chaos

structural destruction for the garden

wall crack

The scariest looking of several cracks in the retaining wall

For nearly 9 years now, we have lived with a crack down the middle of the big retaining wall that keeps the patio from falling down the garden.  Possibly squashing me in the process.

It was on the survey of the house.  I always knew one day I’d have to fix it.  And dammit, it looks like that day is now.

Recent hard winters and monsoon like summer rains have opened up more cracks at the side of the wall.  In recent weeks I have woken up after yet another rain storm expecting to find the top of the garden has slipped to the bottom.

The house itself is not at risk, but still, I’d rather not have a landslide in the garden.

Lots of money is going to have to be spent and lots of destruction is going to be wrecked upon the upper part of the garden, just to get it looking pretty much like it did before.  Minus the scary cracks.

I am usually the most Pollyanna of optimists, but spending money to destroy part of the garden at the very time it is supposed to be looking lovely is more than a little depressing.

But, I am trying to look on the bright side.  I shall get some rubble that I can use to make a level base for a seat at the bottom of the hill.  (The old wonky seat collapsed a few weeks back, as we sat wine in hand.  And we didn’t even spill a drop.)

I shall be able to shift some top soil around and do a bit of levelling out.  I have already emptied a compost bin and spread nice rich leaf mould around.  I’ll have stones that I can use on the stairs I need to build.  I’m even hoping I will have enough rock and waste soil to make a small pond.

Loads of herb cuttings have been taken and plants moved into pots. I will shift the Apple and big Rosemary bush at the last minute and cross my fingers.

A weekend of digging has left things looking pretty bare, but if it stops raining at some point, I will finish up by lifting the top foot of so of soil and transferring it into a builder’s bag for use later.  Then I’ll move onto the border a little lower down.

All the herbs lifted, compost bin removed and rotted leaf mould salvaged

Funny how gardening goes.  I know that it won’t really take that long for it to recover, that it is an opportunity for new planting and it is a good thing to no longer risk being squished by a falling wall. But I wish I wasn’t about to see everything trashed!

At least the front garden is looking lovely.  So if I put maybe if I put my hands over my ears and just keep looking in that direction…