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Towards the growing season

The weather is cooling down. The days are sometimes glorious right now and the evenings are positively balmy. How can anyone resist the temptation to be “out there” doing things in the garden? Indoors is constraining; outdoors is freedom.

I’ve just finished preparing a new bed below the trellis that divides the kitchen garden from the flower and fruit tree section. Turf had to be lifted, rubble extracted, leaves added (still no compost!), and the whole lot watered and left to settle. Half-way through the task, Gigi the golden retriever had her own interpretation of “settle”, as in:
Gigi in the bed
Today, dried buffalo manure has been added and two trees put in, a fig (Ficus carica) and a pear (Pyrus family). I had asked for apple trees but they didn’t materialize and I guess the best thing is to go with the flow. Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), taken from beds where the climber had self-layered while no-one was looking, and some oregano (Origanum vulgare) also found a new home there. More to come: dare I say apples? Realistically, whatever the gardener happens to think we need.
Meanwhile, the “secret garden” is also getting going: salad leaves, English parsley (Petroselinum crispum), dill, coriander (Coriandrum sativum) and Tagetes are up. Only the flat-leaf parsley has yet to put in an appearance. They are all thoroughly pampered: watered regularly, covered when the days are hot, the pots turned occasionally to even out sun and shade. You may have noticed that more items are mentioned here than in the earlier piece about the balcony nursery; every so often, another pot is quietly prepared and joins the crew upstairs. Like any good garden, this one just keeps growing.

The main task for the week ahead is to clean out the herbaceous border. It needs digging, weeding and for some plants to be cut back or removed. We wait to prune the roses until they finish flowering, next month. As one part was ready today, manure was added in great lumps, hard enough to break any shoots. The gardener reassured me it breaks down with irrigation – I hope he’s right!

Our poor, battered fruit trees (think: lawn mower, wind, dog and other assailants) were also well fed and watered. I think we heard them sighing with relief.

However, the raised beds are more problematic. I’ve been doing some research on the use of manure, and have concluded that, for hygiene’s sake, we should not use it on beds where leaf crops (e.g. salad, spinach, herbs) are grown. So we’ll reserve it for one bed only, where we can try out some legumes, and keep the others going with alternative nutrients.

Which reminds me: this morning, I boiled the compost. That is to say, on turning the contents of the plastic bin, I found it was one huge, roiling ants nest. There were some other nasties in there too. As there is no chemical warfare in the garden, we have to go for the conventional kind. So in went the almost-boiling water while I looked the other way. It’s unpleasant, there’s no denying it, and whatever we get from this bin in the end, it’s likely to contain a stream of melted blue plastic.

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