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Big Dreams Small Spaces

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Post by Chilli-head on 2nd March 2017, 4:07 pm

I was catching up on this episode of Monty Don's Big Dreams Small Spaces series last night. One of the projects was introduced as being about providing a vegetable garden for people who were suffering illness, great so far.

But as the programme progressed I found myself getting irritated. [I should confess I had had a few glasses of wine by this point after a hard day at work, so forgive me if I'm a bit harsh]. There was talk of restoring derelict woodland, or their plan to build a productive terraced allotment on a treacherously steep slope in the middle of a wooded wasteland. When we see the site, there is woodland, with a lot of ivy. Restoring it seemed to involve cutting down trees and clearing the ivy (which is a great plant for all manner of creatures), and constructinmg a terraced garden using a digger. The only things that actually looked derelict to me was the ugly corrugated iron building and metal chain link fence that was retained ! In fact the building - I assume it was theirs - they made IMHO look much worse by parrtially and poorly painting it. The resulting garden still looked too shady for very sucessful veg growing to me.

Lovely idea helping people through gardening therapy, but why there ? Why not pick a truly derelict site to begin with rather than grubbing up woodland. Hmm.
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Post by Dandelion on 2nd March 2017, 8:01 pm

I didn't see the episode you mentioned, but watched last week when a young homeowner wanted to transform her back garden, and a man who had been ill and had been homeless and jobless was transforming an overgrown allotment. It was the first time I'd seen the programme - in this series, presumably a lot of the ideas and impetus comes from the people who own the gardens/plots while Monty is there in more of an advisory role. I wonder how frustrated he became while making the series? He gives advice but doesn't really affect the final design.
The programme you describe sounds very frustrating - it sounds as if it would have been better to have left the site as woodland for people who have been ill to sit in, and maybe do some maintenance. It's not going to be much of a morale booster if the veg fail to thrive!

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

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Post by Ploshkin on 3rd March 2017, 4:03 pm

I've only seen one or two of these. They were fairly sensible - one was a tiny back yard with high walls in London and the other a pocket handkerchief garden of a new build with, of course, no decent soil.
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Post by FloBear on 5th March 2017, 2:47 pm

I watch this when I remember. A recent one had a woman with a small garden being advised by MD to put a large tree in the middle of it. Sensibly, and with some help from the garden centre chap, she chose a crab apple. Many of MD's designs and ideas are good but caution is needed when he suggests things like this. Last year he suggested planting the native iris in a garden pond (forgive me if I've grumbled about this before) a ridiculous suggestion as I know to my cost having tried it once myself. Surely he must know how rampant they are.
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Post by Chilli-head on 5th March 2017, 4:49 pm

Hah ha ! One of the biggest problems of gardening is that most plants will either not like your conditions and present a continual challenge to keep them alive, or they love your garden and want to take over. Your challenge is to find the few plants between those extremes. The absolutely best advice I've been given is to look what is growing well in your neighbours garden (open gardens days are great for this sort of espionage). You don't need to plant exactly those plants, but they will give a good understanding of the conditions you have.
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Post by Ploshkin on 5th March 2017, 7:04 pm

I think they are mainly concerned with what looks good for tv regardless of the practicality or suitability. It's very rare that you see a programme revisiting these projects.
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Post by Chilli-head on 6th March 2017, 11:51 am

Ploshkin wrote:I think they are mainly concerned with what looks good for tv regardless of the practicality or suitability.  

That's TV in general. A good story beats good sense and facts any day.

But back to Monty Don's programme. I do quite like him as a presenter, and I think he does have the right sort of ideas - he did stress the need to get some light in a few times. Can't really blame him for the odd choice of site to begin with. The other story on the same programme was a couple building a ruin / folly of sorts; when the builder had finished Monty was attacking the rather too neat brickwork with a hammer and chisel to make crevices for plants; spot on, it looked far too neat to be convincing as a ruin !
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Post by freebird on 7th March 2017, 8:36 am

I've seen previous series of this, so was glad you mentioned it CH. Have been catching up on the available episodes.

The programme you first mentioned, with the 'derelict' woodland - it would have been interesting to have a wider view of the entire space. Whilst I generally agree with your thoughts, the area cultivated looked to me to be a small piece of something much larger, so maybe the impact on wildlife wouldn't have been so great.

Overall though, with this series, I've noticed people's schemes becoming more outlandish than previously - a distinct element of 'Well I'm going to prove it can be done' despite having the advice and mentoring of an experienced, well-respected gardener.
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Post by Ploshkin on 7th March 2017, 9:57 am

Overall though, with this series, I've noticed people's schemes becoming more outlandish than previously
I wonder if that is the TV production people rather than the people with the garden.  The increasingly outlandish happened to programmes like Bake Off & Sewing Bee.  I think the producers think they need to do it to keep audiences interested but the popularity of these types of programmes at the beginning is that they are ordinary people doing things that we could all realistically do and they therefore inspire and encourage people to have a go themselves.  Unfortunately the programmes quickly move away from this to pure entertainment and lose the relevance to most peoples lives
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