Sunday, 23 March 2008

Wintry Weekend Progress

Well, amongst the frequent hailstorms over the last couple of days

I am fairly pleased with the progress made thus far. I wanted to end the weekend sore but happy, but I will settle for sore, but content!

What I did manage to do was dig over the planned vegetable and fruit plot. I haven't really introduced you to the right border, approximately a third of which is made up of the herb garden. This section is made up primarily of herbs, apart from the jasmine up the fence, and the verbena in the foreground. In it we have the usual suspects: lavender, rosemary, bay, sage, orgeno, tarragon, chive, thyme (two kinds), plus the (new to me) hyssop and bergamot. This picture was taken last autumn and you will see that everything has grown up quite nicely over the winter season! Herbs are wonderful, and quite easy care in my experience. I wouldn't attempt to grow basil in the ground here, but I do very nicely with a big pot of it on my windowsill over the summer months. Oh, for a heated greenhouse, when I could grow it year round! I am missing two things, which I have now bought seeds for (in my dining table mini greenhouse currently): Lovage, and Borage. Lovage is wonderful with a celery like flavour, which I have grown very successfully (and very large!) in the past. Borage is an annual, but will be a very welcome addition to the patch, just to the left of the jasmine where you see a bare spot. I intend to sow it directly into the ground in a month or so, as per the seed packet instructions.

A few weeks ago when I was at the garden centre (not specifically plant shopping), I couldn't resist buying a few early plants, one for the right border (a beautiful hellebore, to replace the dead skimmia) and a nice parsley for this herb patch, which is coming along fine.

There are bulbs in this border as well, as I wasn't sure how full everything would be by the spring, so we will hopefully have some gorgeous Alliums, and another sweet thing which I didn't save the label for (always save plant labels!) which has white bell-like fowers. I was looking for snakes head fritillaries last autumn but strangely couldn't find them. Well, you take what you can get, from your local garden centre or elsewhere!

Friday dawned fairly decent. The first thing was to take up the weed control fabric I had placed on the patch to keep the weeds down over the winter. This tactic was I believe something of a success, but of course the dreaded comfrey was rearing it's head. I think perhaps next winter when everything is harvested, I may try the wet newspaper trick, which should break down by the spring when I'm ready to dig over again. I thought the best thing was to get down into the dirt and just dig up those weeds that did survive, by hand. This wasn't too onerous, although time-consuming, as the sun was shining very nicely and with my several layers I felt quite warm!

That job done, I was going to get the fork out, but remembered my new tool

a hand cultivator. And here we go - the great garden work-out begins! What with the turfing last year, I lost weight AND toned up quite nicely! This took some time, as it turns out the border is 21 feet long and 4-1/2 feet across, but it was a very satisfying tool. It has a similar action to the rotovator, in that every time I found a stone (or more likely, a large chunk of cement) the implement would "buck", although of course not being mechanised it wasn't so much of a bronco! It also had a superb levelling effect, as this border slopes a bit worringly. But what had been this

became this

in the Friday sunshine. I felt satisfied with that for the day, and narrowly missed the first hailstorm of the weekend!

A note on the back corner: our initial plans for the garden, in consultation with the lovely people upstairs, was that in the right corner (which gets some lovely sun in the summer) we would put a patio - nothing fancy, something along the lines of the shed base we constructed on the right (as you will see soon). However, that didn't happen last year, and to be honest, I'm not sure if it will happen this year. So, in anticipation, I am taking over the ground for the time being to have a rather unexpectedly larger vegetable patch than I imagined!

So I have to say, this patch in the corner, since rotovation, has not really been touched. In fact, it spent most of the summer looking like this on the near right. That means it had not been "de-rocked" at all!

At lot of hard, satisfying work for a Good Friday, with one little shower in between. One word of warning: do not dig with whatever tool you are using, in rubber gloves. It was so warm in the sunshine that I was sweating profusely, including my hands in the rubber gloves (which I had been using to hand-pick the weeds). There is a good reason garden gloves are cotton - to absorb all that hard-working sweat and save your hands from - ouch - blisters!

Yes that was progress, but I would also have liked to, over Saturday and Sunday, dug over with the fork (getting out many more of those rocks), then with the spade (digging in some organic matter), then over the plot with the rake (adding in some fertilizer). Then, only then, would I have been ready to plant!

Today I woke up to snow. One more day tomorrow - it would be nice to get something else done, in order to plant these next weekend! The sun and blue sky appeared late afternoon at 5pm - hope for tomorrow?

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