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Prepping garden for Spring

Hi everyone

This is an area that I am attempting cut back and weed (although weeding doesn't really suit the area - it's more undergrowth which I have exposed because of overgrown plants including a sycamore sapling).

As you can see  the area is full of thatch and is almost impossible to dig into - and to be honest I'm reluctant to completely get rid of undergrowth so to speak as I know that a lot of insects and wildlife love it so not sure what to in terms of preparing it for planting without harming the wildlife.  I've become so conscious of the impact of wildlife when weeding / clearing etc as I found a large if sleepy bumble bee burrowing into the undergrowth early July, was so mesmerized watching it I had to record the footage, will see if I can upload it to this post.

Ok so here goes ..... I'm thinking of covering it with cardboard then putting spent soil over it with a view to adding compost in spring for planting ?  What are your thoughts? 

Thanks as always 


  • Jac19Jac19 Posts: 496
    edited September 2021
    > I found a large if sleepy bumble bee burrowing into the undergrowth early July,
    > was so mesmerized watching it I had to record the footage, will see if I can
    > upload it to this post.

    Please email the video to me: [email protected]

    I LOVE Bumble Bee babies.  They are a wonder of nature.  A Bumble bee's big body is so heavy that, according to aerodynamic laws, they should not be able to get airborne or fly with those wispy wings.  But they don't know physics or mathematics and they happily fly anyway. <3<3<3

    I'd say, plant something tall that will come up from that patch and flower.
    - Foxgloves
    Consolida ajacis - like 'Blue spire'
    - Hollyhocks

    Be careful to never buy hollyhocks as plug plants as it is very vulnerable to a fungal disease we call rust, and there is a high probability of rust coming into your garden invisibly infecting the plug plants.  Sowing and bringing them up from seeds is much safer.

    I'd say, plant them and bring them up in a 6 inch pot each until they are about a foot tall.

    Then, find a particular spot in your undergrowth, dig only a 6 inch hole about 8 inches deep in there, full it with a peat base compost and John Innes No 3 mix, and plant the tall plant the tall growing flower plants there.  Soon the flower plants will rise out of your undergrowth and flower tall, leaving the rest of your undergrowth safe around it.  And you will have a treat for any bees living in there in the shape of flower spikes full of nectar. :)<3

    Lovely those Michaelmas daisies in your undergrowth, too.
  • LynLyn Posts: 21,343
    Hi Caz,  With that amount of weeds I find the best thing is a pick axe to loosen the soil then they’re easier to dig out,  you can pot up the daisy for a while if you want to put it back.
    If you see a bee you can place it somewhere else,  the more you tidy your patch and get it prepared for some nice perennials the more bees will come.  There’s not that much there at the moment to attract insects. 
    Take no notice of the hollyhock rust, it won’t spread to other plants, it’s hollyhock rust, nothing else.  They all get it whether from seeds or plugs.
    As peat based composts are being phased out  I would also disregard that piece of advise. 

    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 50,222
    @cazsophieq2019 - if the soil's really dry just now, wait until you get a decent bit of consistent rain too. Much easier to dig out anything, although a pickaxe can be useful, as @Lyn says    :)
    Make sure you get rid of the sycamore seedling though - before it's far too big to dig out easily. 
    You'd be struggling to grow anything near it then   ;)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • didywdidyw Posts: 2,732
    Personally I would wait until it has rained and the soil has softened and get everything out, including the sycamore sapling, then dig over the patch and add some kind of peat-free soil improver (well composted bark, or compost from your heap/bin if you have it).  That looks like an aster you have there. You could cut it back and plant it in a large pot temporarily before putting it back in the soil. it will die back over winter and come back again next year.  Don't worry about the wildlife currently enjoying the dying weeds and grass that make up the undergrowth - they will come back.  Any plant you put in will then have more of a chance of growing nicely without competition for nutrients from weeds etc.  There are lots of different plants you can then add.  The aster is late season flowering so you could add spring and summer flowering plants to attract bees and butterflies all year long.  Their foliage will cover the soil quickly.  
    Hollyhocks are lovely - I have them in my garden, mostly self-sown, some planted as plants.  They all get rust - but as @Lyn says, it doesn't spread to other plants. Asters get powdery mildew and that does spread, so bear that in mind when deciding which other plants to put in and look for things that are more resistant to that.
  • WoodgreenWoodgreen Posts: 1,273
    As with any forum, it is unwise to give out email addresses or respond to them with your own.
  • JoeXJoeX Posts: 1,783
    Personally I would leave it “wild” either until Nov\Dec and dig it over then maybe put in some bulbs or a bare root something, or leave until March when anything using it will be ready to move on.
  • Jac19Jac19 Posts: 496
    Once you plant the tall spiking flowers in small holes, without pulling the undergrowth out, as the flower spikes grow, the undergrowth with circle and regrow around the base.  You will have everything you want: the undergrowth and the tall spiking flowers.
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