We moved in to Birkheads in 1978 with two small children and a vague idea of being self sufficient. We grew organic vegetables, fruit, kept ducks & bees and marvelled at the wildlife we were attracting. Horticultural courses followed for me with a second career as a freelance Garden Designer & Horticultural Trainer.
My hobby was and still is propagating rare & unusual hardy plants, we started to run out of garden and managed to purchase some of the field adjoining the vegetable garden to use as a plant production area. In 1987 we started to to make an environmentally friendly garden on a site that had been surface mined( opencast) for coal. Now we are hoping to encourage others to do the same, so if you’re not already trying to save the planet for future generations have a go, it can be quite a challenge and every little helps.
Most of the gardens have been created using recycled materials, paving, slates, wood etc. Garden features and sculptures are made from mainly recycled metal and driftwood, others have had a past life in some other place. We were one of the first Green Tourism Businesses to achieve a Gold Award.
Volunteers & Hortic. Students.
Would you like to work in heaven for a few hours a week? Are you passionate about gardening? Here you have the opportunity to help in our unique gardens. We are looking for half-day volunteers to help in the gardens with dead- heading & light weeding. We help students to learn practical skills and who need to register hours for Horticultural Certificates & Diplomas.
Wildlife & Eco Gardening
Our boundary hedges have been made using native species to provide shelter for hedgehogs, rabbits, stoats, hares, bats and field mice. A wide range of suitable plants supply nectar & pollen most of the year for butterflies, bees and other insects. Ladybirds hibernate in Alchemilla- lots visible in early August.
WATERING We are lucky?? to have clay soil which is high in nutrients and retains moisture if mulched. To ensure that we don’t have to water the garden regularly we’ve covered all of the borders with permeable fabric and then planted through it. The surface is then covered with a layer of gravel, bark or leaf mould to retain the moisture all year round. We water plants as they’re planted, filling the hole with water & wet compost, and depending on the situation sometimes add water retaining granules to the planting hole. We find that the roots go down searching for moisture. Its now 25 years since we regularly watered the gardens. The grass sometimes ( maybe a few days a year )yellows a little but living in the North East there is always rain within a few days to regenerate it! We have lots of water barrels around for watering plants in containers and use water saving devices wherever possible. Because our water table is so very close to the surface we’ve been able to dig natural ponds by just digging holes, water & wildlife are there within days. Dragonflies, Pond skaters, frogs, toads, newts etc
PEST CONTROL We keep a hive of honey bees so don’t use harmful chemicals and instead prefer to leave the task of controlling harmful pests to the birds & wildlife. We’ve found that getting the balance right we don’t need to spray at all.!
BUTTERFLIES/ MOTHS Ten varieties of are usually around from July 28th – the end of Sept.
BIRD We have records of 43 different birds spotted in the garden, we keep a record on our notice board for birders.
BEES Honey Bee, Garden Bee, Tree Bee, Buff or White Tail not certain which!