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View from the street over the lily pond hillside to the pollarded willow
Flowers seen from the street

- summer

Our Surroundings

We live in Wijbosch, Schijndel, in the province of Brabant, The Netherlands. It rains a lot and we're particularly wet from early autumn to mid-spring. Wijboschbroek, the local marsh, is five minutes walk from our home.

Our climate is governed by lots of water so drainage is essential for success in our own cottage garden.

The soil is a sandy ridge on top of a layer of blue-grey clay at a depth of 70 / 110 centimeters or 2¼ / 3½ feet with more sandy soil beneath the clay layer.

The foundation of clay prevents rain water from draining off in autumn and winter when our underground water table levels are very high and the result is waterlogged, boggy ground.

We solved this problem by creating drainage sinkholes, as we explain in drainage for waterlogged soil.

Sandy soil does not retain water and it dries out very quickly in summer, leaving your plants dying of thirst. We solved the problem permanently with home-grown compost and, in the beginning, an occasional soaking with the garden hose pipe.

Our compost helped to encourage earthworms, the natural gardener's best friends, who started arriving soon after the clear-up. They broke down and converted the compost into humus which enabled our soil to retain more water in summer, when the your plants need it most.

Our own Experience

When I first occupied our home (I was still a bachelor at that time, Judy and I met a little later), I was greeted by the worst soil I've ever come across - and I've gardened in Singapore, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

The "garden" had been used for thirty years as a motorcycle repair works and depot. When a shed was no good any more, the solution was simple - dig a hole, break up the old shed, bury the rubbish in the hole and build another work shed.

While digging up 250 meters2 or 820 feet2 of land, I accumulated an enormous pile of old builders rubble, bricks, paving stones, glass, rusty tin cans, pieces of concrete, asbestos and plastic rubbish. Throughout the job, not a single earthworm slithered away - the soil had been ruined with spilled petrol, waste oil and I don't really want to know what else. I probably didn't really want to know either.

Today, 11 years on, the many photos of our garden are proof that we have successfully solved these problems. We grow and eat our own fruit, and it's delicious, no poison here anymore! A wide variety of birds, butterflies, bees, frogs, salamanders and even a hedgehog (in 2007) share the garden with us - they more or less tolerate our presence in their territory, though the competition at fruit harvest time is fierce!

So What's Next?

It's time for hard labour: Preparation - digging and clearing your ground is tiresome but unavoidable. You'll dig, I'll advise - seems fair to me! - a Gardener's Practical Guide to Natural Cottage Gardening

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