Bringing earth back to life

Vegetable plot created from paved over ground

When we moved into our current home, large areas of garden were buried under plant-suppressing plastic sheeting, paving or concrete – they were dead.

The previous owner said it wouldn’t support a lawn or plants. We immediately ripped up the plastic and pulled up the paving. We sifted the dead soil in the front garden and seeded a lawn, which flooded for several years in the winter, but, now established, provides excellent drainage and never floods.

We created a vegetable plot at the back, which we have added to every year with compost from our own bins. We had limited success, but with more time this year I installed raised beds and am growing potatoes, lettuces, cabbages, peas, broccoli, rocket, spinach and marigolds along with self-seeding poppies and love-in-the-mist. Round the edges are broad beans mingling with sweet peas plus two apples trees, raspberry canes and three rhubarb plants.

Apart from the joy of eating our own produce, the garden is teeming with worms, ants, woodlice and countless insects, butterflies, moths, bees and wasps, and birds enjoying the soft fruit (hm!). I have left the spearmint in the herb bed and the rocket to flower, as they are attracting the bees. There was very little wildlife before we took up the plastic and paving.

Sadly, so many gardens are dead, covered with paving, decking, plastic or other artificial surfaces. These can not only retain heat but also increase flooding. And they obliterate wildlife.

Does it matter? According to the RHS, a third of the UK’s front gardens are paved over – in London that equates to 5,200 football pitches – and every individual garden counts.

One reason to pave is to provide off-street parking, but now grid systems are available from as little as £10 per square metre that provide a stable parking surface combined with grass cover. Just imagine the benefits of uncovering the area of 5,200 football pitches to plant with grass and still provide parking. The RHS provides a useful leaflet on Front Gardens and Urban Greening with many simple suggestions.

Also, the RHS claims “adding a few plants to a bare front garden reduces stress levels by as much as eight mindfulness sessions”, so there are multiple wins.

There is so much that we can do as individuals to protect and enhance the environment easily and cheaply – or we can just talk about the problems and wait for someone else to do something.

We’ve still got more to do in our garden, but the transformation is remarkable and it has not cost us the earth.

Instead of wasting life on your phone
Sitting on your decking
Wrecking the earth,
why not create life by uncovering the ground
So the soil can revive
And keep the birds and bees alive?

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