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Council Estate Permaculture: creating a resilient productive garden on a compacted lawn

A view of the garden from the front

We live on a Council estate in Bolton, and decided around five years ago to do something with the front garden.

All of the front gardens in the street are all lawns with compacted soil, each front lawn measures roughly 14x14ft. Incoming sunlight is limited to around two hours in the morning and then two hours in the evening on the opposite side of the garden as the sun goes down.

Creating better soil structure and fertility

I knew the soil needed to be improved so I began aerating the soil with a garden fork, and simply made lots of holes all over the garden that were around 4 inches deep. Once the space was aerated the next job carried on from spring all the way through the summer and into the autumn –  covering the space with many different layers of grass cuttings, most of which I collected from the park across the road from where we live. Before each layer of cuttings was added to the garden I gently patted down the previous layer with a spade.

Perennial planting

The next phase of the garden was digging in two micro ponds, both had previous lives as washing machine doors, the glass is sturdy enough to withstand any temperate climate winter. Once the micro ponds were in place it was time to start the planting! A sea buckthorn shrub was planted in the top of the garden, for both its crop of nutrient dense berries and its function as a biodynamic accumulator, pulling up minerals from deep in the soil. Then I planted an apple tree and a number of fruit bushes including blackcurrants, gooseberries, and jostaberry. When planting bushes and trees in a garden like ours, plant them in the path of the sunrays in order to get good crops of fruit.

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