If you ignore the fact that the magnificent towering pink flower spikes to the left of this picture are, in fact, willowherb and hence, technically (but who decides these things anyway?), weeds, the garden is looking almost … gardenish from certain angles.
Much of my gardening activity in recent weeks has been in the form of making piles, moving piles and occasionally removing things from piles and putting them in their final home. It’s hard to tell whether any of this is ultimately going to be productive or not, but it gets me outside and keeps me happy and that’s the main thing. Today was the turn of the large pile of weed roots outside the fruit cage, some of which have rotted down sufficiently to be put in the compost (or would be, if all three compost daleks weren’t full) and some of which have sprouted and had to be pulled up anew.
In doing so, I noted that we actually have more fruit outside the fruit cage than within it, as the top half of our garden is rampant with wild raspberries, while I’ve just excavated the wild strawberries out from under some more rampant plants in the flowerbed beside it and they have been producing a steady trickle of delicious little berries. None of these have troubled the kitchen at all, as they tend to go straight into the gardener. There have got to be some perks to the job, after all.
In other news, our neighbours report that they have had rabbits in their veg plot. This is bad news for the neighbours and turned out to be quite bad news for the rabbits, once they’d been caught. It will ultimately be bad news for us once the rabbits work out that there is another garden down the hill a bit with some southern townie softies who are unlikely to be as free with the shotgun but for now it is good news as it turns out that the rabbits ate their pea plants. The neighbours have been generously leaving surplus eggs on our doorstep at regular intervals, which is extremely welcome but has created an imbalance in the rural favours calculus. However, as we have a massive surplus of both peas and mangetout, I’ve finally been able to tip the scales back a little in our favour (as well as keep on top of the picking which has been getting away from me somewhat in recent weeks).
We had actual visitors to our house on Saturday, the first since (checks calendar – jeeze, can that be right?) August, which meant not only an epic amount of scurryfunging* in the house but some hasty gardening in order to at least find our bench so our guests would have somewhere to sit…
I didn’t take a ‘before’ photo but this shot of an epic hailstorm earlier in the month may give you an idea of how much needed to be done.
Respectable as it looks from the right camera angle (thanks largely to the other half’s regular strimming and mowing), an hour an a half’s hasty Friday night gardening can’t do much to salvage your reputation as a gardener when your back garden looks like this.
In my defence, a patio which is ankle deep in dandelions is also often ankle deep in goldfinches, which like the seedheads and regularly shoot up out of the undergrowth when I head out the back door (indeed, as I was standing in the front door admiring my handiwork around the bench, a goldfinch turned up and perched in the little tree by the pot and had some strong things to say in goldfinchish about the devastation I had just wrought to his happy hunting ground). Perhaps we should turn the entire garden over to the hares and the goldfinches and just have a machete to hand to cut a path to the gate as needed.
Anyway, a fine afternoon and the sight of some actual fruit on the fruit bushes in the fruit not-yet-cage was the prompt today to finally finish the job before the wildlife got those too.
Although, if my experience with the landlord’s fruit cage is anything to go by, we’ll probably be spending the summer ushering birds off the premises that have worked out how to get in, but are completely clueless as to how to get out.
* A possibly made up word for the act of hastily cleaning the house when you have visitors coming.
As regular readers will know, our garden project motto is ‘all in the fullness of time’, but even for us, that fullness of time does eventually arise. And so it is that we’ve reached the point in our lives when the fruit cage has gone from an idea, and then a firm aspiration, to – by way of some vague preparatory work – becoming an actual project.
As with most of these things, this is 90% down to the other half actually getting on with things while I waft around having ideas (and being quite busy, in fairness to me). Anyway, over the last few weeks, he has done his bit which was to take the remnants of an old chicken enclosure and turn it into something that will eventually keep birds out, rather than keep them in.
Now that I’m out from underneath the latest pile of work, my job is to try and hold back the other marauding forces that will imperil our fruit production: the nettles and brambles that were fully established in that corner of the garden. We’d given ourselves something of a head start by covering up the bulk of the area with a load of compost and our stock of manky carpet more than three years ago, topped off another load and finished with pallets which is how it’s stayed for the last 18 months (I really wasn’t kidding about the fullness of time, you know).
The carpet has now finally been removed (with some difficulty – some of the weeds had quite happily established themselves on the carpet, effectively knitting it together) and it’s done its job in that it’s kept the soil underneath at least superficially clear of weeds – but as I’ve been discovering, it’s still about 30% weed root by volume, as evidenced by the impressive and growing pile of rooted-up roots we have managed to generate.
After a busy few weeks of being more or less chained to the laptop, two mornings spent with a garden fork adding to the pile is actually rather a satisfying job. It’s been mild and dry for a couple of days, all the muck and compost we added to the soil has turned into something rather nice to work with, and even though I know that at best I’m slowing the invading forces rather than eliminating them, every handful of weed root feels like a step in the right direction.
There’s still a lot of digging to do, but my mind is already turning to what we can put in there once it’s all ready to go. Blueberries and raspberries are top of the list – but what would you plant?
Among our many garden plans to be pursued in the fullness of time, one that’s been brewing for a while now has been establishing a fruit cage next to the greenhouse. This has moved up the agenda a bit, partly due to the hares discovering how tasty blueberry bushes are, and partly due to the fact that some friends of ours inexplicably wanted rid of a compost heap full of well-rotted compost and this seemed like the perfect place to put it to work.
So far, fruit cage progress hadn’t got much further than covering the site with old carpet (checks notes) more than two years ago in an attempt to get the nettles and brambles growing there under control.
Encouragingly, this turns out to have been reasonably effective, in that the soil underneath the carpet was pretty clear of weeds (or at least visible ones – I have no doubt that there will be nettle roots still in there waiting for a chance to emerge).
I can’t say the same of the carpet itself, which demonstrates yet again that what this garden really wants to do is grow grass and it doesn’t mind where it does it. If anyone was looking for a half-way house between astroturf and laying a lawn in the traditional fashion, this could be the answer…
We have run out of time this season to get the fruit cage itself up and the beds properly prepared, so we decided to buy some time by lifting the carpet, piling on the donated compost and and re-laying the carpet until we are ready to do the rest. This took a startlingly short amount of time – less than half a day. Given I can easily spend that long trying to weed the dandelions out of a tiny section of the back patio, I’m beginning to contemplate carpeting that too.
Anyway if nothing else, this gave us an opportunity to make use of our pile of pallets in true allotmenteering style.
I’m not 100% convinced by our new decking, to be honest
Now we just have to hope that the blueberry bush survives the hares’ attentions until its new home is ready. All in the fullness of time …