Call the Gardening Police

These days, winter is supposed to be a quiet time in the garden, as we no longer tidy the summer growth up but leave everything for the wildlife to shelter in. However, as spring gets closer and the days lengthen out, this is hard to stick to – especially as March and April are shaping up to be quite busy. With the Weather Gods having declared something of a truce in recent days I have been doing a fair bit out in the garden.

I always go out thinking there’s not much to be done, but one thing leads to another as I realise how much I could usefully be doing, so that by the end of an afternoon’s hard work, I’m somehow further behind than I was when I started. This week’s task started as ‘mulch the gooseberry bushes’ (a task I should probably have done in autumn so no real violation of the ‘no winter gardening’ rule), and somehow morphed into ‘reclaim this patch of brambles and willowherb’.

Overgrown patch of garden

No wait, officer, I can explain – I started off by deciding to fill the barrow for the return trip from the gooseberry patch with the leaves that had gathered under the corkscrew hazel and take them down to our leaf-mould bin, which is next to the pile of shreddings I was using for the gooseberries. While gathering the leaves, I thought I’d just snip off the straight shoots that come out of the rootstock every year, to stop them taking over. While I had the secateurs in my hand, it seemed like a good opportunity to cut back the brambles that had started to encroach on the gardened bit of the garden, as opposed to the reverted-to-hedgerow bit of the garden. And while snipping off bramble shoots is all very well, you know that as soon as summer gets going it will put on about a foot a week, so it’s better to root out as much as you can while things are died down and easier to deal with. And then once you’ve got the fork out, well, there’s nothing so satisfying as generating a huge pile of assorted weed roots even though you know that in the end the effort is probably futile.

Cleared out patch

If I do have a plan for this garden, it’s to reclaim one small patch of it from the wilderness per year, while trying, with greater or lesser success, to defend the territory that I have already taken (I do feel a bit bad at removing what is probably quite good wildlife habitat but there remain a LOT of similar bramble patches in other parts of the garden and I doubt I’ll ever get all of it under control, even if I wanted to). So having started the job, I decided to finish it with a spot of lasagne gardening – piling the ground with cardboard and organic matter to exclude the light and keep the weeds down, without killing the organisms that keep the soil healthy underneath. Supposedly you don’t even need to fork out the roots first, but I was pulling dock roots out the size of a baby’s arm and somehow I think that it will take a bit more than some flattened cardboard boxes to keep those under control.

Patch piled with compost and covered in cardboard

(Before anyone asks, yes I did weigh the cardboard down with some stones after taking this photo).

And besides, it’s not as if the garden reads the books or follows the advice either (case in point – my ‘fedge‘ which has managed to do precisely nothing it was supposed to do and everything it wasn’t over the past few years). So we’ll see what happens after a year or so of the treatment. If the snowdrops I found at the bottom of our manure pile are anything to go by, which were looking very sorry for themselves a fortnight ago, it takes more than a spell in darkness to keep a good plant down…

snowdrops poking through manure


2 Responses to Call the Gardening Police

  1. Viviane says:

    Please show us your fedge ! (I plan to “build” a willow hut, have been since I’ve known I would soon be a grandmother)

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