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What can I do with my office garden?

(4 Posts)
babybat Wed 10-Jun-15 16:21:28

I work for a university in an office which is a converted terraced house; at the back of the building is a small, walled garden. It doesn't get a lot of light as we're in the middle of back-to-back terraces, and there are neighbouring trees which provide a lot of shade. The garden is currently gravelled (lots of weeds poking up), and there's a medium-sized tree in the middle. Apart from some neglected pot plants and some ivy, there's not a lot growing. The university may be able to help getting the weeds cleared, but I don't think they really do regular gardening services. Any plants/equipment would have to come from my money, though.

No-one really uses the garden, and I haven't seen much wildlife in there apart from the odd magpie. Since it's barely used I'd like to make it a bit more wildlife friendly, but I know very little about gardening, and I don't really know where to start. I was going to put some bird feeders in the tree, but what else can I do?

shovetheholly Wed 10-Jun-15 18:12:25

If you get some plants in there, nature will find it! How large is it?

Your biggest challenge is going to be the soil - it's likely to be really poor and neglected and possibly quite dry too if the garden is shaded. Improving it means digging in a bit of organic matter with each plant! Can you get it into the building? Alternatively, I am tempted to suggest you set up a bokashi composting bin on site and bury the waste as compost ^ducks things thrown by everyone at the 10,000th mention of this from me^

I would go for something really, really low maintenance as you won't get much help or support with the gardening. Perhaps aim for a woodland-style garden that will basically be quite naturalistic and look after itself. You want to plant things that are a bit thuggish and able to look after themselves - woodruff might work as ground cover, alchemilla mollis, aquilegias, euphorbia amygaloides, spring bulbs, dry shade-loving geraniums, that sort of thing. Growing from seed at home and then bringing the plants in is likely to be the cheapest way to get bulk amounts.

I would ask around for equipment on Freecycle/Streetlife or even just in the office. I bet someone has a spare spade you can use!

babybat Thu 11-Jun-15 12:15:17

Right, today I gave the bird feeder a good scrub and refilled it with all seasons mix, I've also made a couple of apple feeders. Going to make a bird bath out of a washing up bowl. I could probably make a log pile, but the walls are solid brick, so I'm not sure there would be a route through for much small wildlife.

The garden's about 12ft x 12ft, so not huge. I'm going to try and get the facilities people to weed it, but I think the gravel has to stay, sadly - no chance of replacing it with soil. The other slight catch is I live in a flat, so a bit limited on growing things at home. I've already been offered some lavender and rosemary plants, which is a start. Can you suggest any shade-loving plants that are happy in pots?

shovetheholly Thu 11-Jun-15 15:33:00

Gosh, that sounds quite a challenge. I think a log pile might be worth it, though - you'd be surprised how many microbeasts will find it in no time. I bet you do find birds locating those feeders too!

I worry a bit about how much money a container garden could cost you, OP - pots and compost aren't all that cheap when you need lots of them, and then you have the price of the plants too. And they will be a hassle to move if you do want to leave at any point. I'm not trying to put you off this idea - I think it's wonderful that you want to do it in fact - but I wonder if there is an area closer to your flat you could use instead? Do you have a balcony? Have you thought about an allotment? Or even an allotment share with someone else - lots of people struggle to manage a whole plot? Or a messy front garden belonging to a friend that you could tend?

Lavender and rosemary tend to like sun, but will grow in dry shade so you might as well give them a go and see what happens. Mint likes a well-watered pot in the shade! Here's a list of other veg plants that might enjoy it: www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/shade-tolerant-vegetables-zm0z11zsto.aspx

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