The Great Wall of Herbage

You can't see it from outer space. Tim Peake isn't getting excited from the International Space Station about our chives and aliens are not regarding us with cool, calculated minds. It's doubtful you can see our new edging for the herb bed from across the road but people who pass have stopped, have said (and we're paraphrasing here), 'Ooooh', 'Aaaaaah', and; 'Ooooof'. The latter may have been because the person who was looking at the new stone edge fell over the new stone edge and ended up face down in the new hardcore ditch. We will paraphrase the swear words that followed: %&£!? That's right, they said, 'Percentage, ampersand, sterling, exclamation, question'. They are well read bunch up on our hillside and even remark that we have a bight in our serpentine shape, you can see the bight below.

herbs, gardening, life on pig row

Though that bight wouldn't shelter you from the biting wind not unless you're a Borrower, a Fairy or face down. How did we achieve this look? We hear you ask. Seriously, we hear you ask, someone actually knocked on our window to ask us how we did this. We have never jumped as far out of our skin as we did in that moment. We have never sworn so much in response to a question asked through double glazing. Neither have we physically chased someone down the lane calling them every name under the sun for scaring us to death. Yes, we are zombie gardeners, now. Give us bedding plants! So, how did we create this sinuous curve through our garden? Well, we argued, we got out some canes, we marked it out on the soil, driving a cane into the ground so we could visualise it. Canes are a great aid to visualising things right up to that moment you bend down and poke an eye out on the top of one; you have been warned. Canes come with a health warning and like a pack of peanuts carrying the warning: may contain nuts, bamboo canes carry the warning: may contain eyeballs. With your remaining eye you can now see the shape of a possible bed, you can move the canes around until you get a shape you like. You will move the canes so much that you'll end up playing noughts and crosses. 

herbs, gardening, creating new garden beds, life on pig row

So, the shape is marked out and you lost three straight games of noughts and crosses, and you're have a huff and that means you are in the right mood to carry stone. We have plenty of stone on Pig Row, our hill is full of the stuff, sneeze and some of it will ricochet off the wall and hit you. You just have to carry it, or heft it, or act like a donkey, you can bray if you wish. We're not going for massive pieces of stone here, massive pieces of stone on Pig Row are known as 'features', as in, that's 'too bloody heavy to move, let's make it a feature'. We have several stone walls across the garden to testify to that, they all contain rather large pieces of stone at the base of them. The kind of stone you'd be an idiot to kick when cross. Anyway, back to the great wall of herbage. Pick your stone, your bricks, your bottles, anything you can recycle and edge with. Bottles are actually fun to use, they store heat and they are fun to empty. Bricks are great too but you have to accept if they are not external bricks they will crumble over time but that adds a lovely form of joy to the garden, a sense that even the hard standing materials are composting.

gardening, herbs, how to edge a garden bed

We then mix a trug of sand and cement (3 parts sand to 1 cement). We do it in a trug because we can carry it easily and we can mix what we need rather than have too much concrete; this is how 1970s gardening came about, it was simply a case that a gardener mixed too much concrete and rather than waste it they concreted the lawn, the flower beds, the paths, the gnomes. Never waste concrete, the environmental impact to produce cement is huge, so respect it, don't bin it. Better to have to mix a bit more than have enough left over to dunk the Great Dane in (we do not advocate dunking dogs in cement, they bite, hamsters however can be flung quite easily - joking - don't hurt animals).

creating a bed, edging, gardening

Then it is simply a case of placing the concrete in the trench and with a spirit level start laying them down on their edge in a line and level. You can use string but that only works if you are on a straight line. You want the edging level or you will look like you were drunk when you did your garden, everything will lean; that brings us nicely to another form of edging, wine bottles. Bottles tend to go neck down, empty. Bricks on a twenty-five degree angle, like collapsing dominoes (if you don't know what a domino is because all you have ever played is Call of Domino Duty on the Z-box, Google or Bing it - other search engines are available if you have the energy - and see what people once argued over in pubs and homes). With stone don't get too wound up that you can't get a level top, it's stone, it's lumpy, it's not level unless it's engineered and if it is engineered stone then frankly you can afford to get someone in to do it for you. Seriously, engineered stone costs a fortune and the final effect is that of a Chinese restaurant circa 1999, especially when it has that stacked effect to show off it's strata. Stone can be pornographic in some restaurants and in many gardens. Leave a gap between your stone, don't butt them too close together, there is a reason for this. Stone that is butted up together is hard to work with on the curve, it ends up looking jagged and frankly those gaps will give a home to beetles, be friendly to those ground beetles they do a great job. You can go back and point these gaps up, don't worry the beetles will still have a home as long as you don't do it after a week or two (you'll entomb beetles). Try to do the pointing on the same day after a few hours or at the latest, twenty-four hours later. We could go on about pointing tools now, but frankly use your fingers, pack it in, shape the concrete and merge it into the stone with your thumbs and fingers. It's messy, but it's fun and this isn't a proper wall, it's just some edging and a bit of naturalistic pointing is needed for Tim Peake and his alien friends to truly appreciate it,


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