To make this type of garden feature really successful you should be prepared to do it over at least 12 months so that its success will still be there in 10 years
I HAVE had a question sent in by Mr Chadwick of Golcar that has been posed to me on more occasions than I care to remember in recent years but I don’t think I have ever addressed it on this page before. So here goes.
Mr Chadwick has a compost bin in his garden, but the bulk of his garden waste comes from the lawns that make up the large majority of his garden!
What he would like to know is whether there is any answer to the composting of grass cuttings? He has tried using a material known as Garotta and distributes some of the cuttings under his few shrubs.
But he is now sending the cuttings, bagged up, to Kirklees Council, through its garden waste collection system.
As with most questions there is more than one issue involved.
Grass cuttings will compost if they are mixed in roughly equal quantities with shredded paper, cardboard and coarse plant material that help to stop the grass from becoming anaerobic. They also add vital carbon to the mix.
Materials such as Garotta should not really be necessary if the compost heap has a good general mix of garden waste, is covered to keep the heat in and is never allowed to get too wet.
The brandling worms, woodlice, slugs, bacteria and fungi should then do all the work for you free of charge.
The final factor in this saga is that, with large lawns, particularly if you feed and water them regularly, you will be generating much larger quantities of lush material that are much more difficult to compost.
Lawns take more time and effort, per square metre, to care for than borders and are certainly not as interesting.
Mr and Mrs Bragg from Deighton have decided to turn their front garden into a gravel garden as the lawn is too small to warrant getting the lawnmower out and the garden is in full sun for most of the day.
What they want to know is how to go about preparing the ground, choosing the gravel and suppressing the weeds.
To make this type of garden feature really successful you should be prepared to do it over at least 12 months, so that its success will still be there in 10 years time. If you rush the preparation work you will regret it within a year.
Strip off the turf and stack this, grass side down, in a quiet corner in the back garden as a source of good topsoil for future use.
Cultivate the garden, removing other cultivated plants in the process, and allow a flush of weeds to grow or germinate as they wish until you have a good covering a foliage but not flowers.
This growth should then be treated with a glyphosate-based weedkiller that will kill off deep roots and top growth, as well as any young seedling weeds.
This ‘stale seed bed technique’ of weed control will protect you from weed infestation in future years.
Next, you can shape the ground and plant specimen plants to give the gravel garden some instant height and structure. These might include phormium, yucca, cordyline or specimen conifers.
The choice of suitable aggregates is vast; the best ones are usually graded, clean, rounded stones of around 200mm in size that do not wash away during heavy rain. Builders’ merchants supply these in cubic metre bags that are a lot cheaper than garden centres.
This should be spread over the levelled and firmed surface at a depth of 500 mm (2in). I would not advise you to use landscape fabrics as these tend to encourage the build-up a detritus between the fabric and the gravel, allowing ‘soil’ to form on which weeds will eventually grow.
Choose some specimen rocks to add a sense of nature to the garden and then plant selected alpine plants in the gravel to complete the picture.
See details (right) of Slack Top Nurseries for a great selection of suitable alpines for the gravel garden.
Any minor amounts of weed growth can be treated with spot treatment weedkillers or just pulled out.
If you have any questions or queries that you want help with or gardening-related subjects that you would like to discuss why not write to me at Gardening Questions, Features Office, Huddersfield Daily Examiner, PO Box A26, Queen Street South, Huddersfield HD1 3DU.