Mill Lane Community Garden, August Update
The Mill Lane Community Garden is now two and a half years old, and already looks like a well-established garden, with a wonderful mix of shrubs, trees, plants, wildflowers and vegetables. The Garden is an evolving space for the enjoyment of the whole Community…
A Rough Around the Edges project
Based on reports compiled by Maureen Dyroff and Pam Coull
The Mill Lane Community Garden is now two and a half years old, and already looks like a well-established garden, with a wonderful mix of shrubs, trees, plants, wildflowers and vegetables. The Garden is an evolving space for the enjoyment of the whole Community, and we hope that many people will benefit from this growing and wildlife space, and that it will be well used by all ages and abilities. Once the construction is complete, we will be encouraging wider use of the garden by school and community groups, to visit and to use the space for both learning and recreation.
The garden, particularly the front open section, has become a meeting place for the community, and people often have a break at the garden whilst out on a walk. The front of the garden is always open for people to enjoy.
The space behind the gates has been designed with 6 pods, to mirror a leaf with its leaflets. Each pod has a large raised bed, to enable gardening by all ages and abilities. The pods also enclose grass and hardstanding with seating. The beds are planted up with a variety of vegetables and surrounding the pods are soft fruit trees and rose bushes.
This is our second season of fruit and vegetable production, and although we still have a lot to learn, we have been sharing the produce with the community by leaving items at the front of the garden, as well as delivering to neighbours.
We are delighted to be able to incorporate several wildflower areas and wildlife habitats into the garden space, to encourage wildlife and increase biodiversity. This area of development is constantly under review, and we take advice from the Berks, Bucks and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust. We also have a pond area in the wettest part of the garden, which is due to be revamped with a more permanent pond structure.
Throughout the past year, we held a plant and seed swap and a number of Open Days, including an Open Day for the Great Big Green Week last Autumn, a pumpkin event as part of the Chilterns Autumn Festival, and several open days in June.
A huge thank you to all the volunteers who spend many many hours at the garden. We have spent in excess of 700 volunteering hours at the garden in the last year alone, in addition to all the work that goes on behind the scenes.
Grant funding from the Parish Council, Chinnor Open Gardens, and BBOWT’s Rough Around the Edges project has provided seating, cycle racks, a notice board, wildflower seed and plants, nestboxes, and First Aid training for volunteers.
Wildlife and Biodiversity
The first thing to say about wildlife and biodiversity in the garden is that we are planning and planting to encourage the widest possible range of animals, insects and wild creatures to visit and eventually to make their home in the garden. The garden is competing with the more established ‘Gruffland’ next door but we are hoping that wildlife will find the community garden just as hospitable.
There are three key aspects/areas in the garden where we have focused our efforts and in this past year, we have had both successes and challenges.
We have re-sown the wildflower area and it is flourishing, albeit with a different mix from last year. Some of the smaller annuals such as poppies are being overshadowed by larger flowers such as Wild Carrot, Yarrow and Weld, although the Weld, which is new, is beautiful and statuesque. There are also fewer cornflowers. Out of place wild plants such as thistles and docks have been a challenge to keep under control. However, the Yellow Rattle, sown to keep the beautiful but invasive grasses under control has been a success.
The strip of grass left to grow alongside the fence between the front of the garden and the school has proved too dense for wildflowers to penetrate so we are planning to dig this up and make a border of soil in which to sow a wildflower mix. This will also allow the shrubs planted on the fence more light and air to grow.
The pond and wet area.
This was doing well in the spring but has struggled in the hot dry spell. Despite re-lining the pond area twice, the water will not stay in the dip. We are going to try sinking a large tub in the centre which will retain water, hopefully retaining the logs and planting around.
Masonry Bees in the boxes on the fence behind the pond were active in the spring and early summer although they haven’t been seen for a while. Many of the holes in the bee boxes are stopped up so we’re hoping there may be babies incubating. Hopefully if there is permanent water in this area, frogs and or newts may be tempted to set up home or at least visit. That’s a lot of ‘hopefullys’ but that’s a bit like gardening: a lot of hard work and plenty of hoping.
We have also attracted regular ladybirds and caterpillars in this area and the twisted willow seems to be thriving.
Encouraging larger wildlife and our feathered friends
We have several bird boxes – not sure if any are being used yet but as already mentioned we are competing with the natural habitat next door. Hopefully as our trees grow and mature, providing both shelter and food, the garden will be more inviting.
Likewise the hedgehog doors may well be used but it’s hard to tell. There are no signs that the hedgehog hide has been occupied but again it’s early days. There are now log piles and shady places so we could have visitors sleeping the day away. It would be great to have a night camera as we could see any nocturnal visitors.
On a general note, we continue to plant for wildlife: trees and shrubs that have berries, soft fruits, flowers to attract insects and butterflies and eventually when the hazels grow – nuts.
Finally, not sure if this counts as biodiversity but our compost heaps are settling in and although the mix isn’t right yet, there are worms which is always a good sign. We also have three water butts, collecting and recycling rainwater.
We have just set up a BBOWT camera trap in the garden, to see if we have night time visitors.- more updates coming soon!
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