Tales from Gazen Salts

‘l want to see a sea of flowers…’

Season 3
Looking at the ‘garden of unknown identity’. These saplings are to be taken down so as to open up the entire front bed for the sea of flowers …

See Here for Seasons One and Two of Tales from Gazen Salts Nature Reserve Directory

Close-ups of the Dead Wall – front left, centre view from start to end of line and end of the line looking back. Currently, it is around fifty feet in length, four feet in height, and three feet in width depth.

Yesterday aside from adding to the mound to firm and shore up the strength, much of the ‘garden’ was raked to clear the grounds and those rakings were mostly added to the mound.

This will become a marvellous haven and sanctuary both for beetles and birds and small mammals. But also over the next three to six months its height will shrink as the mound settles into place and the long range benefits start to work their magic.

You may recall seeing the above photo in one of the more recent galleries. The content here is cut grass from Gallows Field and this had been placed into a temporary compost heap, these grasses were then gathered and added to the dead wall.

Various positions of the Dead Wall and the Garden undergoing clearance.

Whether l stay or whether l leave Gazen Salts, l am still deciding, but there is a good chance that when it comes to the end of March, l will not be volunteering there with the regularity l am today.

There are a few reasons for this. The first one will be my favourite of late – Time – lack of and being used elsewhere – most notably occupied with a busy allotment and a new gardening business, composting and worm farming.

These four activities are about to increase exponentially from this month, and with the arrival of March to October as the bare minimum, l expect to be ultra busy. New allotments need a lot of heavy work for the first couple of years, at least until they are more established.

No different to a new business – so it might be that come the quieter times of the year – November through to February could be the only time available to be at the reserve, and yet, having said that, 2023 might be my last year volunteering full stop.

This year Suze and l are working on an allotment and a new business combined, as well as working other things into that mix. These are also physically demanding tasks. Tiredness will be a thing this year with us. We are not as young as we were ten years ago, and we will likely have to be ploughing most of our week into the grind to make sure these businesses work.

Whilst the last time l wrote about Gazen Salts, things were looking up; there might be issues afoot with projects that will need more time from me, which is a commodity already stretched tight. Come to the end of March, l will have to reduce the mornings l spend there from four a month to maybe just one, and that might also be a big ask.

In addition, there are further complications with the gardening project l am working on. The garden needs an identity – all projects do, but this subject has a lot of controversies among those working on the garden project at Gazen Salts.

Many ideas are bouncing around from too many people and are starting to conflict, and as of yet, no one has sat down and said: “Right, the X Garden is going to be called an XX Garden, and what we want to grow are A, B, C, X, Y and Z!”

The garden is in desperate need of a finalised garden identity. But the input is needed from those who understand gardening requirements, and somewhat shockingly, l discovered that the conservationist wanting a sea of flowers wasn’t a gardener or even a composter, so needed to understand that plants and flowers have different soil requirements. Strangely enough, l was shocked to discover that some of the gardeners didn’t either.

Many types of garden identities are available – courtyard, cottage, country, kitchen, foraging, urban, wildlife, contemporary, and so on. You can mix it up like, for instance, we will be doing on Plot 17 but it helps to have a main theme. Our allotment’s central identity is that of a Kitchen Garden and primarily a for-the-table plot, but it’ll have elements of foraging, wildlife-friendly and cottage present.

Identification labels are essential to begin with at the start of a project as it allows for a direction to follow. You may not refer to the labels once the foundations are in place, but identity will enable a guideline.

It’s like when you go to a shop looking for a pair of jeans. There are many styles of denim, but you might be looking for a specific cut, and if there are no labels, you’ll be rummaging around in the stacks looking for what you want, which could take ages to locate.

However, if you are in a shop with signs to guide you to the correct department, this makes your life easier, and in moments you can understand where to go. Once you are in the right area looking at the styles and cuts of your interest, you can start looking at the identity labels for your size, washing instructions, etc. You will then discover the price and decide to purchase should you wish.

After you have got them, you no longer need to continually look at the identity label because those jeans are the ones you wanted, and you know the information. That’s the beauty of identity labels.

Identifying a garden is the same in many ways. It would help if you had a primary style, and then you could add to or mix it up. What you shouldn’t do is have no idea and then throw as much as you can into it at the same time.

Many plants, shrubs, flowers, wildflowers, herbs, and so on don’t always share the exact requirements. Some do well or prefer shade equally, while others prefer full or dappled sun. Some have requirements for different soil types.

Last week l thought the garden was to be called the Guestling Wildlife Garden, but yesterday things changed, and whilst it is still to be loosely referred to as a wildlife garden, many don’t wish there to be labels attached and want to have many different flowers present.

One of the conservationists wants to see all sorts of flowers present or, as he described, ‘l want to see a sea of flowers of all types – ornamental, wild, herb and so on!

Whilst this was lovely when l explained that perhaps some discipline might be required, that was not well received.

The moment you start mixing flowers up is when you have to start researching the soil because not all flowers are created equal. They can have different requirements. That the grounds need to have work performed on them to prepare them, and they will need to be mulch fed and, more importantly, tended to on a fairly frequent basis. Because you’ll have lots of weeds, they will look unsightly if not plucked out.

The question l asked was, ‘Well, if you have those, you need to cultivate the ground, but who is going to work the garden daily? Who has the time to direct their energies to that because l don’t?’

In a couple of weeks, there is to be a sit down to discuss this garden in more detail which is desperately needed. At this point, l will also start getting very busy with my garden projects.

Yesterday l took down two-thirds of the compost structure l had set up, realising that the traditional system would not be required. We can offload purely into the dead wall – which, as you can see above, is becoming quite formidable.

I opted to keep one compost unit only in action as this will be easier to manage and deter many from throwing more significant ingredients into the heap that will prove impossible to decompose. The dead wall can also work as a living compost. There will only now be a small call for a hot compost. So a triple unit isn’t required.

As an experienced hot composter with some confidence, people will only bother working with compost piles if they are passionate about the whole organic decomposition process, and many are not. There are few hyperfocused on this as much as l am, but out of 25 people, it is two others only. And as l will be getting busier and busier, l can’t have people calling on my services to work for the garden compost pile, so the decision to reduce the capacity was the best.

As you can also see, the dead wall is coming into its own, and l am super pleased with it – maybe not so much of the nicknames it receives, ranging from the Great Wall of China to the Somme or Hill 60! Hey, ho, it is significant, and in the next few weeks, it’ll get longer still.

But as far as its benefits go, it’s well worth the effort now. Wildlife already loves it, and birds and bees continually frequent it. Once it is completed, it will be an incredible finalised project, even if it is to be one of my last.

Two other elements that could easily encourage my departure from Gazen Salts that l have only lightly touched upon before in previous episodes are ‘stress and expectation of labour’.

I should be more relaxed than l have been with something that is supposed to be fun, and also, since the warden’s departure, there has been an increased expectation of the workload expected from non-paid volunteers. I am one of many to notice how much work we are expected to perform.

Single composting unit with current pile of assorted green and brown wastes

Designs – Earthly Comforts – Inspired by Nature – see collection here

Tales from Gazen Salts Nature Reserve is about my time and stories of my voluntary work with this project.

I’ll see you next episode. Thanks for reading.

Gazen Salts Nature Reserve
Sandwich, Kent, England, UK

Published by The Autistic Composter

Earthly Comforts is a wildlife journaling scrapbook focusing on the countryside, wildlife biodiversity and environmental conservation, flora and fauna volunteering projects, gardening, composting and vermiculture, inspiration, poetry and photography.

14 thoughts on “Tales from Gazen Salts

  1. It actually would never have crossed MY mind either that people in the garden business, either professionally or for conservation or whatever would not understand that you need different kinds of soil for different plants. Maybe because I’ve been growing huge number of house plants since forever ago, one of the absolute basics is knowing what soil each plant needs.

    Around here, you also need to know what plants the deer won’t eat! That’s also really basic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, of course, that is the other thing – when one of the volunteers submitted a plan for the garden [she is now retired – but used to be an architect], she also showed a mixture of natural plants combined with ornamental flowering plants and vegetables in the same plot.

      She had designed the layout purely on colour and not working logic.

      I could accept more if we were a community garden that worked daily in the garden but not one that only performed once a week.

      Not everyone enjoys gardening, but if you introduce vegetables, you are submitting a different gardener again, and all gardens need to be worked. The more complicated you make a garden, the more work needs to be done regularly, so l struggled with it all.

      But when those who garden started agreeing with the non-gardener about mixing everything up – l was just stunned, and l am not some purist, but come on, folks, use some common sense. I am all for gardens evolving, but we have to have a starting point, and only some things will work properly.

      We can all drop whatever we want into the earth, but that doesn’t mean it’ll grow, and even if it takes, it might only last for a season, and there is no guarantee it’ll thrive.

      But l think that is becoming our world where, sadly, people ‘expect’ things to happen and are shocked when they don’t happen the way they thought they would. People have become so used to simply not thinking, researching, or reading about something that they need to remember some core basics.

      It’s a changing world.


      1. Gardens are a LOT of work. It’s fine if you’re healthy and retired and have plenty of time, but many people are not hardy enough to do that kind of work. I know I’m not which is why I grow most of my flowers in pots, in AND out of the house. I have pots and flower boxes and hanging plants on the deck. They require care, but it’s manageable. I can go out there on a summer’s day and deadhead the plants that need it, make sure everything has enough water and fertilize anything that seems to need it. I buy fertilizer for specific kinds of plants because you can’t use ONE fertilizer on everything. If you use it on your orchids, you’ll kill them. I have special soil for the cactus, special soil for the orchids, a general purpose soil for the petunias and other potted plants. It’s sound complicated, but really it isn’t — as long as you know which plant is which and keep you gardening materials organized. It’s hard to believe the people don’t realize how much work a garden is. My guess? They’ve never really done the work. They’ve either hired other people to do it or just seen pictures.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s my prime concern – how many of these so called gardeners are active gardeners today as opposed to yesterday when they were younger and fitter and actually gardening and not just pottering around.


      3. I’m willing to put money on their NOT being active gardeners. Their ignorance and lack of understanding scream that they dream about gardens, but haven’t been caring for one — if they ever did.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I think the majority of the ‘gardeners’ we have volunteering were once active gardeners, but are no longer actively attending to their gadens like they once did. Sure they might plant a few seeds now and again, but they are no longer digging plots, or hoeing grounds and repotting and so on. Because gardening aas both know is an extremely energetic draining activity.

        I think it is easier for many of the volunteers to agree and more so if they are not the ones taking part in the hard work.


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