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Deborah Spanton

About

I live in rural Essex in a small village and enjoy pottering about the garden in all weathers but am by no means an expert and feel there is a lot I don't know. Our soil is quite heavy with clay in parts and needs to be worked a lot. My gardening tends to be 'try it and see what happens' and I particularly like perennials but don't really have a plan for the garden. If I see something I like, I give it a go, which is not always successful! I would like to be able to plan an area and know how to put plants together so that there is something of interest all year. I want to attract bees and butterflies and I do have plants all year round but don't feel that there is any real structure to the garden and there are lots of gaps. I work full time and being in the garden happens at weekends and in the evening during the longer days so high maintenance isn't an option. The garden is South facing, fenced entirely and about 35 metres long and 15 metres wide. Because of the fences there is full shade against most of them at some point in the day, but the garden is also a sun trap and some areas get very dry during summer but conversely, in the winter, it can be very wet and heavy. I have a semi-circular herb wheel with brick edged sections outside the kitchen door, which has been very successful and provides fresh herbs most of the year. There is a paved patio area with pots and then a split level lawn. Nine years ago we had it landscaped to get rid of a slope down towards the house, and it is in three parts, one area at patio level, half patio/half lawn, the next stepped up and separated into two parts by a trellis. There are several mature trees (silver birch, an upright prunus, cotoneaster jackmannii and an apple tree). We have a lot of trouble with bind weed especially on the poorer, heavier soil. I also have 5 backyard chickens and they free range in the garden, which can be a problem when they scratch in the beds or use them as dust baths, so when I dig over soil and plant anything I surround it with green wire until it's established, to stop them from scratching it up! On the plus side they eat slugs and bugs.