The ecology of this garden is being restored via a management regime designed around a policy of nutrient recycling – especially that of nitrogen (N) and carbon (C).
The basis of this program is that we now keep on site and recycle all organic waste generated within the garden via a traditional ‘hot composting process’
Levels of organic matter are augmented by introducing material high in Nitrogen (N) including as horse manure from Hyde Park Stables (hot composted to kill weed seeds and break down substances such as antibiotics administered the horses), blood and bone (sterilized via a cooking process in its manufacture) and chicken pellets in the sacks to your left stacked up next to the garden shed.
In addition to this, 30 cu metres of tree chippings are now being added to the garden borders each year. These come from trees shredded locally by various arboriculture firms. Piles of chippings are left to age for three to six months to break down tannins and other organic substances found naturally in leaves and bark. This is then spread to create a humic layer on top of the soil within the borders.
This encourages a local ‘food chain’ within the garden, allowing plant material to break down via the action of fungi, bacteria, worms and other insects. This mulch substrate provides a habitat within which this ‘decomposing’ flora and fauna live. This regenerates the soil with organic matter as the worms take it down into the soil in burrows, excreting it as worm casts which contain high levels of plant available nutrients.
The humic layer also serves as a gigantic ‘sponge’, allowing water retention throughout the dry months of the year, reducing plant water stress and allowing plants to continue growing through the summer when they would otherwise shut down due to lack of water.
The principle is very much to feed the soil. This in turn feeds the plants and replaces the need for fertilizer and irrigation.
This program reverses a 150-year policy of removing surplus “waste” organic matter from the garden, (leaves, hedge and lawn clippings etc.) that has resulted in the garden soil being depleted of organic matter. This in turn places stress on the trees and hedging and dramatically reduces the habitat and food for animals further up the food chain.
The aim of this program is to restore the ecology of the garden and encourage a local food chain where both living plants and dying plants coexist, building a stronger ecosystem in which insects and microorganisms (fungi and bacteria) thrive. This in turn promotes healthier plant life encouraging birds and higher mammals (e.g. Tawny Owls & Pipistrelle Bats) to live here in the garden.
Over time this program will allow us to introduce more horticulturally interesting plants that are much more demanding of water and nutrients. We will take this opportunity to select different species of plants that encourage wildlife populations but also species that are threatened or endangered in the wild. For plants in this garden, this is a similar strategy to that of urban zoos which once fell out of favour but now play a major part in global animal conservation programmes (thinking globally, acting locally).
There are eight information sheets placed around the garden illustrating this program and how we implement these principles on a practical level. As you walk around the garden you can read these signs which provide more specific information.