Hit The Gravel And Go!

This week we took delivery of two large/jumbo sacks of 20 mm gravel, for the purpose of covering our side border at the front of the house.

We had previously covered the front border quite successfully and wanted to continue along the side to complete the job. We didn’t do it all in one hit simply because the cost was prohibitive at the time. The timing here was vital as I’d already booked two weeks off work and this was one of the main jobs I had planned.

We ordered the materials from a local trade supplier a few days before and I had purchased a roll of heavy duty weed control membrane before winter, as the money was available and we had formulated a plan by then. Membrane doesn’t go off so it was worth getting it while the price was right and funds were available.

Putting down the membrane meant removing any pernicious weeds and old stumps first.

That itself was a challenge as the stump I had my eye on was from a still live Hawthorn, complete with deadly needle sharp thorns.

Now, sensible people would use heavy, thick gloves and long thick sleeves when doing this, but then I’m never one to make a job easy on myself,so several stabs and swear words later it was out and I could begin laying down the ground cover.

Once again, planning would have said put down your ground cover first then add plants afterwards but we have established shrubs already so I had to work around those. We could have dug them out, covered and replanted but as it has been one of the hottest, driest in a long time, with a prevailing drying wind, I didn’t want to risk losing any plants.

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Now, the problem I didn’t anticipate was the location of the sacks. Directly in front of my huge Hebe bush. Now, I LOVE my Hebes and so do the insects. Hoverflies,butterflies, bees and wasps. I don’t know which one took offence to a great big sweaty human standing and shovelling gravel right where they wanted to fly but I felt a sting and caught something tangled in my chest hair within twenty minutes of starting!

One application of anti bug spray (citronella) later and the job was on again.

Three bottles of water, two cans of lager and several rest breaks later it was …well, started at least. I managed to empty the first bag within the first day but knew I was wavering by about 3:30 pm and decided to give my back a break.

As I’ve said, and been reminded, I’ve got two weeks off. I don’t need to damage myself doing it all in one go, so, after a long soak in the bath, I’ve set my sights on finishing it this week, rather than immediately.

I mean , I’ve still got the greenhouse, allotment, polytunnel and a social life to handle as well!

Time to get stripping!

I made a useful discovery today. I noticed some of the troublesome grass path between two of my beds had started to tumble over the edge and onto one of the beds. I started to just pull up the grass clump. As it came away, it pulled more of the matted grass roots with it, like a green carpet. I continued and found that, in fact, a lot of it would come away as simply as pulling up a roll of thick muddy carpet. I soon found myself stripping away the full length of the one path and lugging it into a barrow.

The method works really well and exposes all the nooks and crannies that slugs and other pests hibernate in over winter. It doesn’t however lift the tap rooted weeds. As the pictures show, it does make it a lot easier to spot them and lift them with a hand fork, taking as much root as possible to eliminate regrowth.
A quick hoe over to break up the compaction from a few years of walking over, wheeling barrows along and mowing, then the rack tidied up the bare soil. ┬áIt was a relief to finish the one path but then I stood back and looked at it. I was a bit to keen to admire my own efforts and decided the next path along the other side of the bed would look better if it matched…

Well, I have a work day tomorrow so I can always rest at my desk until my back and knees forgive me. At least my fingers won’t be on display so much. Yes, tearing up two barrows full of muddy root matting does get the soil under the nails pretty deeply!