Facts in the Ground

April 13, 2017

Well, I don’t technically have enough time for gardening, but then again, I don’t have enough time to go insane either, so a bit of prophylactic horticultural therapy seemed in order. And besides, gardening has to be done when it has to be done, so if I was going to grow any veg at all this year, I had to get planting

seeds in modules

Seeds in the ground. Well, in pots anyway

So broad beans, peas, beetroot and leeks planted, because that was what my gardening pals had left over or what was still in date in my seed stash. Beans, kale, broccoli and squash still to come. I look back fondly on the days when I carefully planned out my seed order and rotation strategy…

Fork in the ground

Fork in the ground. Actually the soil is pretty good, albeit 50% willowherb root by volume

And I reasoned that digging this bed over now and then planting some actual plants in it would be less time consuming in the long run than trying to keep on top of the nettles, willowherb and brambles that were in it last year (this actually makes for quite an impressive display, but I don’t think Chelsea will ever come around to that). It means breaking the habit of a lifetime and going and splashing money out on plants, rather than seeds, but I have garden vouchers …

And now, back to the campaigning coal face.


Binge Gardening

April 5, 2017

We had gardening pals around for lunch today, who very kindly came bearing surplus seeds as I have neither bought any myself nor managed to get to the regular seed swap organised by the local guerrilla gardening group.

As well as the pleasure of their company, inviting them round also gave me the spur I needed to put some hours in on Sunday catching up with myself in the garden.

Veg plot in AprilNotice the veg plot now has proto hare-defences, created out of the hazel sticks and some willow that we cut back earlier in the year. In my head, this was going to be one of those Pinterest-worthy rustic woven fences, but it’s perhaps not quite as impressive (nor indeed likely to be as hare-proof) as I’d hoped. The main problem being that I didn’t have enough suitable material for weaving in, but as we have two largeish willow pollards in the garden, there will be more where that came from. Also, I am avoiding putting any of the willow actually in the ground as I don’t want my fence to turn into a line of willow trees the moment I turn my back on it, which willow is prone to do (even if stuck in upside-down, apparently)

As for the rest, well, we’re still seeing what’s coming up so that’s my excuse for not getting to grips with the other parts of the garden. I was pleased to discover that what I had thought were peonies are in fact hellebores

hellebores

And I’ve long wanted wood anemones, and suddenly I have a nice little clump of them. Not quite in the right place, but I can help to spread them.

wood anemones

Of course, some other less-welcome plants are popping up too

nettles emerging

A reminder not to let everything get too behind hand …


What Lies Beneath

March 25, 2017

So, I know you’ve all been waiting with bated breath to discover how the manky pink carpet experiment has been getting on.

carpet-covered veg bed

Well, as it happens, due to a rare confluence of events that meant I was not required to be in a random Scottish city this weekend, combined with a slight lull in the immediate pressure of POP preparation (but there’s still time to contribute to our crowd funder, just saying), and a day promising sunshine and light winds, gave me the perfect (indeed, possibly the only) opportunity to find out. In fact, I would have been hard pressed not to spend today out in the garden, given the gloriousness of the weather.

potatoes chitting

So far this year, my entire preparation for growing veg has been a half-hour trolley dash through potato day (top tip: label your seed potato bags before you pick your potatoes, and then put them in alphabetical order for maximum efficiency), and chitting my seed potatoes. I knew that the carpet hasn’t been down long enough to properly deal with the weeds or let the organic matter break down, but spring waits for nobody, and I decided to open up the first bed and put my first and second earlies in today.

veg bed uncovered

If I’d been hoping that underneath there had been a magical transformation into wonderful friable rich soil, I would have been disappointed, but if I’ve learned anything in gardening these past few years it’s to manage my expectations, so I was just pleased to discover that the grass it had covered up wasn’t just sitting there unscathed. There are still some clumps hanging in there to deal with, and a lot of the coarser plant material hadn’t broken down yet, but there was also a fairly healthy population of worms. So the carpet has saved me a lot of digging, although I suspect come later in the season when I’m battling the weeds that did survive, I will wish I’d been more patient

Fortunately potatoes have a fierce determination to grow and will do so even in a light-proof plastic bin so I suspect they will manage anyway (that said, I note that last year I was still putting potatoes in at the end of April, which might explain why we had such a rubbish crop – I had forgotten that. Clearly you can push even a seed potato too far.)

Anyway, given that I haven’t even bought any seeds yet, he rest of the bed can remain under the carpet for now, hopefully mulching down into something marvellous. Meanwhile the now-spare carpet has been moved up to where the fruit cage will be, which is currently about 50% nettle roots by volume. I don’t think we’ll be planting our raspberry canes there for a while …

potatoes planted

What with all the digging, lugging about of heavy stuff and general hard labour, I feel a bit broken now, but it does feel good to have got started for the season.


Not Dead Only Sleeping

March 19, 2017

‘Have you given up blogging then?’ the other half inquired rather plaintively this morning (despite the fact that I’m not, and never will be, as funny as I was in 2005).

The fact is, there’s a sweet spot between not doing anything interesting to blog about, and not having enough time to blog about it, and I’m still overshooting it. I may, technically, have become less busy at the end of last week but that doesn’t seem to have translated into my having any more time. Maybe next week …

Part of the problem is that I’m still extricating myself from the clutches of the community council in the parish I no longer live in as even an appeal from the pulpit has not yet produced a willing volunteer to become secretary in my stead. That also means helping distribute the newsletter, which the Brompton and I duly did this afternoon.

newsletter delivery route

Oh okay, so maybe it wasn’t that much of a hardship on an early spring afternoon.

Chionodoxa

Chionodoxa luciliae

In other news, my birthday present to myself has arrived a few days early.


The Proverbials

March 9, 2017

paper birch trees planted

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago

paper birch tree tubes

The second best time is now*

silver birch in tree tubes

The ridiculously oversized tree tubes will hopefully protect our twiglets from the attentions of the coos.

Mark this one down as ‘lighting a candle’, but in tree form.

Tomorrow, as part of Back on my Bike‘s plan to reach every cyclist in Scotland with the Walk Cycle Vote message, I shall be heading up to Inverness. If I ever get that song out of my head, I might be able to report back sensibly.

I wouldn’t count on it though

* Although technically, that’s the third best time, as the second best time would have been on our actual 25th wedding anniversary, which was two months ago, that being what the trees were supposed to be commemorating, but you know, it takes me a while to get around to these things**

** indeed, it might even be the fourth best time, given that we should really have waited a whole year before deciding where to put the trees, but what can I say, nobody celebrates their 26th wedding anniversary …


Half Cut

March 1, 2017

One of the plants we inherited in the garden is a corkscrew hazel. Or rather, a corkscrewish hazel, because over the years, the non-corkscrewing bit has clearly been allowed to grow and has started to take over.

corkscrew hazel

I was in two minds about what to do about this. If you want to keep the corkscrew form, you need to cut out the straight growth. On the whole, I wasn’t much of a fan of these contorted forms and a proper coppice that produced actual hazelnuts might have been preferable, so I was considering just leaving it. But I’ve since been hatching a plan to produce a hare-proof edge for my new vegetable plot and some hazel stakes and sticks wouldn’t go amiss as part of that plan. And clearly, straight stakes are preferable to corkscrew ones, so that made my mind up: the normal growth was for the chop.

corkscrew hazel after pruning

Actually, now that it’s been cut, I’m beginning to see the appeal

hazel sticks

I have a cunning plan for these, watch this space

And we have exciting* piles of sticks for use in the hare-defences.

Other interlopers will not be as easily repelled

ground elder

Aaargh

* In the very specific meaning of the word ‘exciting’ as used in this blog


Spring has … ah

February 27, 2017

So I was hanging out the washing this morning, listening to all the birds out there singing their feathery little heads off, and noting how the sun has finally inched its way up in the sky to the point where it reaches over the top of the roof and so can help dry the laundry. And I was thinking that, these days, spring tends to invoke a sense of impending panic as much as anything else, what with Pedal on Parliament and now Walk Cycle Vote and never even mind the veg plot. Having a garden, fantastic as it may be for one’s mental health, does nothing but intensify the feeling of time galloping past with too much to do and not enough time to do it in.

However, this morning, I didn’t feel quite so much panic as I probably should. It’s not that everything is under control, exactly, but I’m just trying to deal with it. PoP is run under anarchist collective lines, which means there’s really no point trying to draw up any sort of detailed plan for anything, you just have to go with it; as a kill-or-cure treatment for control freakery and terminal anxiety it is highly recommended. And it probably helps that the garden is still under wraps and the longer I leave it there, the better it will probably be (technically, I should probably sit out the whole growing season to get rid of the worst perennial weeds but I’m not sure I can face another 12 months of staring at what is becoming increasingly manky carpet*). So I went inside to start work, happy to celebrate the impending arrival of spring, rather than try and push it back into its box until I was ready for it.

And then I looked up an hour or so later and noticed it was snowing.

*Indeed some of it seems to have got into the spirit of the thing and has started to go green