Reviving a neglected garden area

Now the trick is not to do the expected.

Around this time of morning – post coffee, post toast and Vegemite – I would be heading outside.

If I trip over the cat on the front door mat (once a week) I would spend a bit of valuable Creature time, feed her. Then go off on my one hour, 5km hike around the mountain.

Come back and attack.

The garden that is. Although a feisty small cat can be quite the weapon too if she is in a playful mood.

This is the wonderful moment in the season where you are still in control. The annual weeds haven’t overtaken, the seedlings are all growing beautifully and don’t need much nurture.

The major tasks are done.

After fourteen years, I really don’t plan any major landscaping projects….

Until last week.

It all started when my lovely neighbour Agnes gave me a mimosa seedling. (That’s Wattle if you are Australian, it’s our native tree.) I want to do a proper blog post on that tree later. But given my tardy track record at the moment I have decided to make a start today.

Where to put a new potential tree? You would think with acres and acres of garden this wouldn’t be a problem. But there are so many factors in siting a new potential monster.

South facing isn’t the problem. Nor is sunshine and space. But it has to be somewhere I can water it for the first year, protect it from deer and wild boar, and keep it weed free at the base.

Such were the going to sleep musings that I came up with this.

A vile spot. And right in front of the main garden and the house.

We usually just get out the strimmer / brush cutter and shave this bank back to bald. It looks horrendous for about a month and then all the lusty growth returns.

This whole terrace bank is artificially created to make room for a very shoddy septic tank in the 70s. Someone had a go at making a stone terrace in keeping with the rest of the farm.

But as the bank is so huge – easily four metres high – the stone wall was never going to be up to much.

Add in erosion, massive brambles, nettles, inadvisably planted grape vines, and rich soil from a broken tank….

So what started as one of those ‘I’ll just plonk the tree here’ ideas became a full on week’s worth of excavation.

I did have a go a few years back at exposing the wall. That was when I was naive enough to think that beautiful stone was hidden under years of neglect. But this stone wall is not a thing of beauty.

So be warned. This is not a pretty sight. I dared not take too many action shots because you too would tire of soil, weeds, rocks.

But it’s done. I have pulled off about ten years of neglect. Grubbed out more brambles than I wanted (thumbs, fingers, porcupined with thorns). And generally tried to create a flat space for trees.

Yes trees. That titchy little seedling is about to get some larger offspring. Agnes gave me a second tree.

So while it is in the potting shed putting on a bit of growth in the warmth of the spring sunshine, I can keep on mulching and hiding the eyesore of bare rocks, inexpertly placed.

I did a huge prune of the olive tree further along the terrace too. Mainly because I kept getting stabbed by the errant branches while I worked. I’ve never pruned an olive before. We only have two trees. It’s way too cold up here in the mountains for such fripperies. But when I lost a lot of branches in the snow storm a few years back, I realised that you can positively pollard the poor beasts and back they grow.

Aint nature grand.

To save myself the heartache of yet more emerging weeds, I have given in and put down a weed proof fabric on the flat surface.

In a few weeks I will cut a hole in the fabric and plant through. The rocks are just piled up for now. If and when our builders want to make a new French window in the east end of my office I know I will have a glut of gorgeous stones for a wall. And as a bit of advance planning, I have just the spot for them. This terrace. Crying out for a bit of elegant wall building. And it will hopefully distract one from the shameful example above.

So forgive the temporary stone pile I created. Bit by bit…