Today we took our first steps along the path of change, the path of rewilding – by digging it up as we went along!
Each side of the drive there is a border about 4ft / 120cm wide, planted with a single line of native and cultivated shrubs, and New Zealand Flax (Phormium Tenax). Those two borders have contributed much to slowing the speed of storm winds, and reducing damage to our productive garden. However, if an overgrown shrub has to be pruned – or replaced, the wind is funneled through the resulting gap, and it becomes very difficult for the new or pruned shrub to grow at all, let alone to close up the gap it is meant to fill!
Were these two borders to be twice the width, they would be far more than twice as effective – as it would be possible to stagger the layout of shrubs, and to phase pruning or replacement so as to avoid this problem. There would be other benefits, too : a deeper border with trees and shrubs grown close together shelters birds and small mammals from wind and rain – and even from birds of prey. Such a border also harbours accumulations of dead leaves, broken twigs and other organic litter, encouraging insects (which provide food for birds) and earthworms (food for birds and hedgehogs) ; and … well, plenty more besides. We know this works, because we already have much more substantial wildlife areas in the south-west and north-east corners of the walled garden, and these areas are very rich in wildlife.
At the other side of each of these two borders there is a path of about the same width as the border : we’ve recently realized that we can manage the garden almost as well without them. (There are other paths that serve the same purpose, and are both wider and easier to maintain.)
So, today, and in spite of the damp and drizzle, we’ve stripped the turf off the paths and dug it into the sub-soil. We’ve ordered, from a nursery, a good number of native trees and shrubs which will supplement those we’ve grown from cuttings or division, and we’ll plant them out behind the existing row of trees and shrubs. Once the new planting is well-grown (say five or six years from now), we can start progressive replacement of the New Zealand Flax plants with native shrubs and trees. That will take at least six years to fully complete, so it’s a good thing that we’re not impatient to achieve rewilding of our croft and garden – we’re only impatient to begin!