Habitat Gardens: Notes & Observations

- Life and Habitat Within a Gardd Gymreig

Work Required: varies dependent on level of desired wilderness: for the full habitat garden it is necessary that all areas are dug over and that some landscaping is put into place to give a route around the garden, access to all parts of the garden (for maintenance, if nothing else), and so garden features, eg: a huggery1 or a pond2, can be put in place.

For the ideal habitat garden it is necessary to remove as much rubbish as possible (especially broken glass and ceramic or similar). If you can create nicely workable earth to a depth of 3-4 feet, with any rubbish and stones removed, the garden will thrive. Create piles of the stones out of the way of the main garden area (there are many plants, insects, and reptiles which will thrive on these, just as there are small wasps and bees which will thrive on piles on earth, in additon to sparrows which will happy adopt such as dust-bathing areas, and swallows which will utilize the earth, - especially when wet, - as nest-building medium).


1 a huggery is a hedgehog home lovingly crafted and designed by a treehugger; hence a huggery as opposed to a hoggery. Hedgehogs like cavities or similar with garden debris (dead leaves and the like) of the type that are typically to be found beneath old wooden sheds. A wooden pallet sunk into the ground with some straw, a cardboard layer over the top of the pallet, and then covered-over with earth can serve just as well; but there needs to be (ideally) multiple access points or a single large access because two males will not go around each other in a narrow opening, also because a hedgehog needs to be able to escape in the event of rats (or even a cat) entering the huggery. A reliable clean water source needs to be available and the huggery needs to be located in a quieter part of the garden, preferably away from cats or dogs.

2 this can also serve as a septic pond alternative to using the mains sewerage system; however, this does mean that it will need to remain accessible in the event of it requiring maintainence or repair.



Tools Required: at a minimum a good rake, a good spade, and a good fork are required. A hand rake is also very useful, and a long thin dibber. A large crowbar, or wreaking-bar, can be useful for prising-out large rocks and boulders1, and a small hand-pick can be a veritable godsend. Do not go for "cheap and cheerful" because it is likely that you will regret doing so, and ensure that you always have a couple of pairs of work gloves of the elasticated back and latex-coated palm variety (lightweight "gardening gloves" are a waste of money and will not protect you, or prevent blistered hands, or last more than five minutes, in a habitat garden; correction: any garden, in my experience).


1 large rocks, boulders and slabs of stone (often from old fireplaces and old slate or sandstone flagged flooring) are amazing (and valuable) additions to almost any garden: they can be used in everything from rockeries to reptile habitats, for the creation of tunnels and borders, pathways and arches, or simply to make interesting features, cairns, or obelisks; however, utilizing them usually involves having to remove them from somewhere else in the garden first ...and that somewhere is usually at the bottom of a deep (and usually inaccessible, often muddy) hole...



How Long? - A habitat garden will not happen overnight: at a minimum it will take a whole year for wild plants to begin the process of colonization; likewise for anything you introduce into the garden in the form of seeds, cuttings, or plants1. If the garden is healthy to start with, and in an area with a lot of wildflowers, then a single year should be all that is required for the garden to become overun with wildflowers; however, in most areas it is far more likely to be nearer three years before the garden becomes anywhere near fully colonized and, even then, it is likely to require plently of assistance1.


1 it is illegal to gather plants, seeds, and cuttings from wildflowers; however, wildflower seed mixes (and meadowflower turf for those wanting to replace their boring green desert with something prettier and more ecologically sound) are available to buy, along with practically every variety of orchid.

Seed-gathering or taking cuttings from wildflowers should only ever be considered where there is a definite abundance of that plant (ideally, not just in the local vicinity but in a much wider area, too), and is sometimes necessary when it comes to populating the garden with many of the more common (but usually unwanted) wildflowers because, unfortunately, many of these are simply not available in the purchasable seed mixes

Ordinarily, plants should never be dug up; although here, too, it is unlikely to pose a threat to the local ecology if you were to take a single alpine strawberry from a clump of 100+ plants in a area with at least 1000+ plants or a Dandelion or Plantain but, that said, there are rare varieties of both and it is important that you can differentiate between them and know which is the common as opposed to the rare.

For myself, I have Cinquefoil in the garden from the roadside (from root stock), Pink Campions (from seed), Perennial Centaury (from root stock), and Quaking Grass (from seed). The Cinquefoil is common in this area and takes readily from root stock - a small section taken from another plant (sometimes with stalk), whilst leaving the main plant intact and in place, the Pink Campions are also common (and, again, growing readily from seed), Perennial Centaury, whilst supposedly only growing in a small area in South Wales, is well established in clumps wherever it grows in the local area and grows very readily indeed from even the smallest pieces of root stock.

All of these have been encouraged to spread where they will, seeds and cuttings of which have been freely exchanged with other people and planted wherever I have encountered areas where they might grow. This gives me the pleasure of a: having them grow in my garden and b: knowing that I have done my part in ensuring the plants in question end-up growing absolutely everywhere (excepting areas where they might become a nuisance, - eg: through being invasive, - or where they might be hazardous, - eg: through being poisonous, or ecologically sensitive areas where they might cross-breed or threaten native species).



Garlic: bought from outlets everywhere and split into individual cloves which are then planted into the garden, this is an inexpensive, and environmently friendly, solution for purifying the soil of diseases and deterring soil pests (including cats!). Cats, especially, hate crushed garlic and are less inclined to dig in areas planted-up with garlic. Garlic requires no special treatment, and will happily grow in most soil types, forming entire bulbs over the space of several months and occasionally flowering to form bulblet cluster seed-heads (which will eventually keel-over and 'plant' themselves in areas adjacent to the parent plant). This is a good choice to plant adjacent to new plantings, and is unlikely to conflict with existing plants.



Ponds and Watercourses: do not be tempted to buy felt or pond-liners: these are the last thing a habitat garden needs. Instead, buy bags of slip - a cheap, wet, and usually very pliable casting clay. The clay can be rolled-out (just as though rolling pastry) and then laid, in overlapping sheets of at least 1" thickness, to form the required pond (or watercourse) liner, with the seams pressed into underlying sheets using a large kitchen fork or any other implement that will allow the seams to be squished into a lower sheet. It might also be useful to squash a first layer of clay onto a galvanized chicken mesh liner to help hold the clay liner together, as any parts of the liner (if exposed) are liable to dry-out and potentially crack in hot weather.


That Fuschia...

'Twas purple-white (November!),
'Til one virus (Corona!) season its colours' rearrange:
From large purple-white to small pearly (pink-white!) -
That fuschia is blessed strange!
50 Frisky Sparrows...

50 frisky sparrows in my gardd Gymreig,
Eating corn and birdseed,
How the buggers thrive!
Plants Pilfed From Caernarfon...

Plants pilfed from Caernarfon do well in my garden,
Cuttings or seeds,
Most especially weeds;
There is no place quite like Caernarfon
For all your gardening needs.
- ©JB "That Damned Treehugger", 04.06.20



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