What do you do when the allotment plot you’ve loved and nurtured for 5 years becomes increasingly waterlogged and flooded? Try to improve the soil, the drainage, use more raised beds – or move?  Rightly or wrongly, I’ve decided to move, and this is the beginning of the story of Starting Over…

Five years, and I’ve loved our allotment. We’ve turned it from brambles and carpet into a not-quite picture -book, but very lovely and productive, allotment: fruit garden, self-seeded Nigella and Centaura; all the veg. Even a very dilapidated shed.



But the last two years – hard, hard to find the time to maintain it because of the weather. Not that we’re wimps, just that whenever we have time to garden there is rain – rain that’s been, rain that’s raining, rain that’s coming.   A lot of the year the ground has been soaking wet, or actually under water. Digging in a spade in produces a slurping sound no gardener wants to hear, the water table is trying to escape.

So, I’m starting over. Same allotment association, different plot, on a higher and drier part of the site. Another half-pole of brambles, old carpet, and overgrown beds, and dilapidated shed. But a real plus in the form of at least three plum trees, possibly one cherry, a considerable overhang of an ancient-looking apple,  4 blackcurrant bushes, 2 recurrent bushes (I think), a gooseberry, and three climbing roses.  The previous holders were apparently Ukranian, and had had the plot for some 10 years or so before ill-health forced them to give it up. (I’m hoping to track them down and take them some of the plum and currant harvest this year).

First tasks this year: prune the apple tree overhang, weed around the fruit bushes, feed the fruit bushes and then mulch them so the weeds don’t re-grow, clear out the tool cupboard (really too small to call a shed) so it’s usable. Then clear a small patch and install a first raised bed – 1m deep, 3m wide. This is going to be for broad beans – I just know that if I get my broad bean crop in this monthI’m going to be incentivised for the rest of the year.



The gardening group met for the first time on Saturday – a couple of people turned up in pairs, but mostly we were new to each other. It was really encouraging to find such a committed and active group of people working together to  maintain and beautify the garden. Altogether  8 of us worked in remarkable March sunshine from 11am to 5pm.

We did mostly what we planned – a lot of weeding and cutting back in the raised beds, and transferring plants to better locations. It was lovely to see the difference it made at the end of the day  – suddenly the planting in the garden was looking cared for and thought about. We also sowed some seeds – a few herbs in the new herb bed, and some colourful annuals in one of the other raised beds (we’re hoping to raise funds this summer to replace these, so we are delaying any permanent planting until the autumn).

The date for next group is Saturday April 14th – do come along if you can!

NB:  Some volunteers want to carry out gardening tasks outside the monthly ‘Gardening Group’ Saturdays, so I’ve pinned a list of tasks that need to be done between now and the next group meeting – April 14th – to the cabin wall, and there’s also information in the file in the Gardening Group file in the Cabin. (If you do anything, please make a not on the pages provided)


Group meets SATURDAY 24 MARCH, 11am to 5pm

Just a quick post about the gardening group at Barracks Lane on Saturday – everybody is welcome, no skills needed.



  • We’ll be weeding and pruning the central raised bed, which was planted as an example of drought-resistant planting. It should be coming into its own this year!
  • We’ll be weeding the other raised beds, and prepping them for new plantings.  We’ll spend a bit of time thinking about what herbs, fruits, and flowers we can grow over the summer.
  • I’ll be looking for volunteers to help me complete the survey of the garden, and measure up for the new fencing around the pond area.





We’ve been planning a wildlife pond at the community garden for a long time, and at last, in October and November of this Autumn we were able to set about building it.  We’d considered a number of possible sites for the pond, but after much discussion chose a site at the entrance to the garden, at the bottom of the sloping driveway,  near the ‘beach’ (sandpit) where parents and carers could keep an eye on young children, and where visitors would see the pond as soon as they entered. Choosing a construction method was easier – last year I’d taken part in a small workshop run by Clive Leeke, building a puddled-clay  pond in a friend’s garden.  It seemed an ideal method for the Community Garden to use, demonstrating and helping to revive an ancient and sustainable technique. It became even more appropriate once we received a grant from TOE2 (Trust for the Oxfordshire Environment 2) to build and plant pond. TOE2 are sponsored by Grundon, and they undertook to provide the high-quality bentonite clay we needed.

Clive Leeke was commissioned to run the pond-building workshop, and we set about recruiting volunteers for the weekend of the 30 and 31 October. It proved very popular and over 16 people offered to give up all or part of their weekend to help .  In the event not all could make it, but we had enough (just) to complete the project over the two days – more on the heroic and back-breaking effort put in by our volunteers later!

However, before we could begin building, we had to get the clay on site. I knew the logistics of this would be challenging, because of the narrow entrance to the site, and the narrow road leading to it. I liaised with the Environmental Coordinator at Grundon, and we thought we’d taken all necessary precautions – alas, when the lorry arrived on Friday morning it couldn’t even get up the street from from the Cowley Road, let alone the street leading to garden and our narrow gateway. However, Grundon were magnificent, and within an hour they’d sorted out an alternative strategy for our 4 tonnes of clay – it was craned off the lorry on to a pallet with a hydraulic lifter underneath, and wheeled down to the garden site.  By the end of the morning there were 8 half tonne bags of clay waiting for the workshop to start on Saturday.

Saturday morning dawned mercifully dry and sunny, and at 10am the volunteers had begin to arrive. Clive started off with explaining some health and safety issues (we were using metal spikes, mattocks, and spades to break and clear the ground, which was very dry), and running through the pros and cons of using clay-puddling to build a pond, and methods we were were going to use. The first consideration was to think about the profiling of the pond – what shape did we want, where did we want the deep section, and where did we want to shallower section for marginal planting ? We also needed to provide the sloping sides which would allow amphibians and small mammals to get in and out of the water safely.  We decided on having the shallower section nearest the paved area of the garden, and the deep section at the back of the area, near the wildlife corridor and hedge we have been creating in the garden. We began digging! The ground was very dry, and it soon became obvious this was going to be very hard work. However, despite having 12 or so volunteers we couldn’t all work safely in such a tight space, so we divided into two teams – one team dug and transported the spoil to the compost area at the bottom of the garden, and another team began to learn the technique of making the clay tiles which would line and waterproof the pond.  Making the tiles was a lot harder than anybody had thought! The clay was very high-quality, and therefore quite dense, and it was also dry because of the autumn drought. Breaking it up into suitable-sized lumps, and then stamping these down into flexible tiles (each about 20 to 25 cm sq, and 4 to 6cm thick) took a lot of effort and skill – and resulted in very sticky boots, hands and garden ! It gave a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘feet of clay’

The morning wore on – we were lucky to have garden volunteer Roger making cups of tea and coffee for us when we need to take a break, and in the afternoon new volunteers arrived. We were very please to welcome Dr Angela Julian, of the Pond Conservation scheme. She arrived to bring copies of their excellent booklet ‘Creating garden ponds for wildlife’ to give to all the volunteers. She’d said beforehand she wouldn’t be able to stay to help as she’d spent the previous weekend digging 25 wildlife ponds in Kent.  But it looked fun, so she thought she’d lend a hand for 30 minutes or so. Or an hour. Four hours later…..

So by the end of day 1 we’d finished digging the pond, barrowed all the spoil down to the compost area, and made a considerable stock of clay tiles to use the next day.

At the beginning of day 2 we had that sinking feeling – not all the volunteers had been able to come for a second day, and some of those who had been going to attend for the first time on the second day had dropped out.  Would we be able to finish the project? We laid the first tile, and again split into to teams – some to stamp the tiles into the earth to line the pond and some to carry on making tiles.  We needed to create enough tiles for three layers! What seemed daunting began to seem possible – again we were lucky in gaining an extra helper, our ‘Garden Guardian’ for the morning couldn’t resist joining in the fun. A great team spirit and determination to complete the project  formed amongst the volunteers – they weren’t going home until it was done!  And so it was!

At the end of the weekend we had a beautiful pond, lined with clay, covered with soil, waiting for the rain.  The following Friday Clive and I returned to put up the safety fencing, and clear the now very slippery clay off the hard-standing, so all would be safe and ready for the garden’s bonfire night on 5 November.

We’re producing handouts on the techniques and skills of puddled-clay pond building – visit the Barracks Lane Community Garden website in January 2012 to download a copy. The Pond Conservation Society are going to help us  organise a ‘species-dipping day’ in the Spring to see what we’ve got, again visit the Barracks Lane website for details once this is organised. We’re also going to plant up the pond in the Spring, although we’re hoping that we’ll get a lot of natural colonisation fro the he nearby rainwater ditch on Barracks Lane.

Thanks to everybody who helped = we’ll be asking you all back for a pond-warming party in  Spring 2012 !

Welcome to this new blog. I’ve decided that WordPress is so much easier to use than Blogger that I’m transferring all my blogging activities here!  So the first 8 posts on this blog are the archive from katejurygarden designs.blogsppot.com

Just a brief word about this blog, in case you don’t get around to reading the about page….

It’s about sustainability and how it relates to gardening and growing, mostly from a community perspective. It covers allotments, community gardens and public spaces, private gardens and commercial organisation. I’m a professional garden and landscape designer, and work in Oxfordshire and the surrounding area. I also work as a volunteer and trustee at the Barracks Lane Community Garden, and have project managed the construction of their eco-shelter, with green roof and solar panels.  I have an allotment at East Ward Allotment Association in Oxford, and last, and, somewhat least at the moment, my own garden – which I’m in the process of redesigning to be as sustainable as possible (but like so many designers I know, my own garden always seem to come last!).

My posts will be about what interests me, and what I hope will interest you – how to implement simple sustainable projects that enhance public and private spaces, how to combine aesthetics with sustainability, permaculture principles, planting for wildlife, and growing my own vegetables, fruit, and flowers for the house.

I’d love to engage with readers who have similar interests, and will be following and adding links to bogs which write about the same issues and topics. Please comment as often as you can and wish!

TUESDAY, 18 MAY 2010


Artweeks at Barracks lane Community Garden

Artweeks is over in central Oxford … my first time as an exhibitor , and it was such fun. My fellow designer Emi Itoh and I exhibited our garden designs and photographs in the yurt at Barracks Lane Community Garden. 

The yurt is a great venue- it has a beautiful translucent light, even – or perhaps especially- when there’s rain; and it’s so welcoming, a sheltering round space which intrigues children and adults alike. When it was cold we chopped logs and lit the wood-burning stove. We had so many visitors – a lot of them were visiting the garden for the first time, and it was wonderful to welcome them to the yurt and our exhibition. The exhibition – of garden plans, 3D models, mood boards, planting plans – prompted lots of questions from our visitors about what we actually do as garden and landscape designers. It was a great opportunity to discuss what we do and how we think – about the relationship between sustainability and aesthetics, and how this shapes choices about design, materials, plants, and the ways in which we use our outdoor spaces.
Thanks so much to the garden for letting us host our exhibition at the Yurt, and to all our visitors – please do visit the garden again, find out what’s on at http://www.barrackslanegarden.org.uk

FRIDAY, 18 JUNE 2010


Green Roof and Solar Panels for Barracks Lane Community Garden


At Barracks Lane Community Garden our eco shelter is moving forward! Thanks to a generous grant from theTrust for the Oxfordshire Environment and theOxfordshire Preservation Trust we have started the installation of a green roof and solar panels on our new shelter.
The green roof is being supplied by Oxford Green Roofs, and the owners, Kay and Gareth Davies are generously donating their time and expertise, charging us only for materials. The first phase, installation of the butyl liner and the edging restraint was completed in May, and we have now fixed a date to complete the roof the substrate and meadow turfing. 31st July is a while away – we had to find a weekend date when the garden wasn’t being used by young children, and when we could gather together enough volunteers to barrow the substrate down the access lane and onto the roof.
We already have a great group of volunteers from Phil Pritchard’s permaculture group, and I’m sure when we advertise more widely for volunteers there will be quite a few garden users who want to learn about green roof installation.
It’s such a good time to be doing this, with the RSPB and wildlife trusts appealing to gardeners and developers to think about creating wildlife corridors and habitats. At Barracks Lane we’ll be able to show all our visitors how a green roof can add beauty and biodiversity to a garden and neighbourhood. Our roof is going be meadowturf, not sedum, and will offer habitat to a range of insects and birds. Watch this space for pictures later in the year!
Meanwhile, Russell Dominian who built the eco shelter at Barracks Lane, has the first ‘green roof’ in a van that I’ve ever seen!
The solar panels are now in position on the roof, waiting for connection to the grid. This is proving to be more problematic that anticipated because of the need to dig a new trench through the concrete access pathway. But we’re investigating a number of solutions, and hope to have this sorted by next week. Meanwhile I am busy designing a cupboard to house the meter and inverter for the panels and grid connection – not just any old cupboard, but one which has a see-through door at eye-level, so that children (and adults) can learn about how energy from the sun can make electricity for us all.



Falling in love – with a meadow turf roof!


So, I fell in love …with several metres of very special turf. This Saturday (31 July) a team of volunteers and two generous experts installed the new green roof at Barracks Lane Community Garden. It looks interesting even now, and will be gloroius in about 6 weeks time.
To install the roof we had to get three tonnes of soil off the back of a trailer, 20m down a narrow alley, and up 2 metres onto the roof of our shelter – all without any electrical or mechanical power, just people, barrows, trugs, and a lot of good will.
We had 16 volunteers and although the intention was to work in shifts of four or five people for an hour at a time, in the end we just all mucked in, taking a rest when we felt like it. We got the soil up onto the roof in about three hours, and then had the fun of lifting up and unfurling the rolls of meadow turf on the roof.
The turf is purpose grown for roofs by Wildflower Turfon James Hewetson-Brown’s farm just outside Newbury. It contains 30 species of native wildflower, and four species of grass. James grows it on hessian mats, and this makes it easy to lift, and creates a mat of roots that establish quickly. Once established we shouldn’t need to water – even in a drought. It may turn to hay, but with an annual cut in Autumn, it should come back to life each Spring. But at the moment, and in our current drought, it needs to be watered every day – a bit like taking the dog for a walk!
The roof design was done with Kay and Gareth Davies ofOxford Green Roofs – they helped us design the roof so that it retained the soil, put in the layers of butyl and fleece needed to line the roof, and finally organised the supply of the soil and turf. But most importantly they showed the volunteers what to do and how to do it as well as lending a lot of muscle power themselves. They donated their time and expertise to the garden, and we are very grateful!
For Barracks Lane Community Garden as well as contributing to the biodiversity of the site, and increasing the number of native and local species we grow, the roof is also designed to help deal with the rainwater run-off from the shelter, and the concrete slope at the top of the garden. The roof will absorb some rainwater, and what is left over will drain through the gully at the back of the green roof and be collected in a butt to add to the garden’s water harvesting and storage system.


Bitter blackberries?

I’ve just got back from a week’s holiday on the North coast of Norfolk, a new landscape for me –  sand dunes, long sandy beaches, and a distinctive vernacular architecture of flint and brick.  More of Norfolk another day!

Whilst away I was bemused by an article in Guardian (7 September, Patrick Barkham) – ‘And Now for a Very Peculiar Autumn’ . I don’t know where Patrick lives, or when he starts his Autumn calendar, but by my reckoning we were only 7 days into Autumn when the article was published. And whilst the article bemoaned the ‘season of unripened fruit, sour blackberries, and piddling conkers’ it said nothing of the magnificence of the late summer harvest we have had this year. It’s been an August of fruits and berries such as I can scarcely remember – plums, damsons and cherries dripping off the trees and coating the footpaths and lanes, sloes and hips bursting from the hedgerows, rowanberries, berberis, and argusier berries colouring the trees and bushes with jewel like intensity.

If we were living 500 years ago I’m sure this would have been remembered as a great year for free food, a summer and autumn to fill our cupboards with jams and fruit cheeses, syrups, pickles and dried fruits to shore us up against winter cold and the early hungry gap.

But yes, I admit, some of the blackberries have been bitter! But there’s plenty of autumn left yet.




I visited Chateau de Villandry in July, for the first time, and marvelled at the size and scope of the kitchen gardens – nine squares of low box hedges, each the size of a small allotment plot, filled with a meticulous geometry of colourful, healthy vegetables and herbs – from cabbages to celery, basil to beets, and pears to peppers.

What’s even more impressive is that these immaculate gardens are being converted to organic methods – which makes careful rotation of the crops very important.  The beautifully drawn plan presenting the scheme for summer 2010 was an inspiration.
So often I leave the planning of crop rotation until the last minute, and then scribble it hastily on pieces of paper which get progressively scruffier throughout the season.
So this year I have taken a leaf out of Villandry’s admirable book, and tried to create a lasting and attractive plan, showing crop positions for the last three years, and for the forthcoming autumn/winter and spring/summer seasons. It’s always so much more complicated than I think. Partly because like all predictions that involve plants, the weather , and soil, I can never be sure when the growing season will begin and end, and when the space will become free. Will the early peas finish in time for me to plant out the climbing beans and courgettes in that space? Will I manage to organise the delivery of the manure before the ground becomes to sodden or frozen? Oh well, at least I have the drawings to refer to if the seasons don’t behave, and like all plans they can be changed to suit the weather!


September 2020