Friday, March 25, 2011

Cut not its earth-bound ties

Last spring our poor bay tree was looking very much the worse for wear, but struggled manfully and pulled through. A second hard winter of substantially sub-zero temperatures delivered the coup de grĂ¢ce and there's no hope, despite the saying that a tree's only dead when it's been dead for a year. When the main branches have split as badly as this

there's only one thing to do.

It had to come down. It had got some mighty roots (which we were fascinated to discover smell like sandalwood, not bay), but it eventually gave up the struggle. I've planted our pot-bound plum tree in its place; it looks rather puny but with luck it'll feel happier there and might even have proper-sized fruit.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I'm like a bird, I'll only fly away

Last year, despite the apricot tree having several flowers, it only set one fruit (which turned out to be the most delicious apricot in the history of the world); we'd hoped for better things this year - one fruit each, perhaps, instead of having to share. It duly developed several flower buds which swelled promisingly, and in the last few days of mild weather and sunshine they started to open.

They are no more. Today they were all systematically removed by this little so-and-so:

Having stripped the tree he then spent the next seven hours of daylight battering at the window, fluttering from the top of the frame to the window-ledge at the bottom and up again, and getting into most undignified positions.

I wonder what roast bluetit tastes like.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Can you dig it

Almost as soon as the weather becomes tolerable - and this weekend has been lovely - everyone acknowledges their guilty consciences and starts tidying the garden ready for the summer. In our case this year it's rebuilding the deep beds for the third (and final!) time. Growing vegetables in deep beds is so much easier than on a traditional open plot; because the beds are narrow enough to never be trodden on the soil doesn't become so compacted and digging it over is a much quicker task. But it's worth taking the time (and spending the money) to construct them properly from the outset.

The first bed walls we made were of plywood from machinery packing Ned had at work; it cost nothing, but despite being timber-treated they fell apart after only four or five years. So the next lot were made of proper timber boards, 1" thick. They lasted a lot longer but were too narrow to support the growing weight of soil against them and despite various quick-fix supports collapsed sideways, making it almost impossible to get between them. To be honest, it all looks a bit tatty.

So this year we've invested in boards similar to scaffolding boards to run the full length of the beds, and hopefully these will see us out.

Spare paving slabs, with weed-suppressing membrane beneath them, laid between the beds will not only help to support the sides but also mean I won't have to try to squeeze the mower up the pathways and then strim the edges; it's going to look very much tidier. I'll let the dug-over soil in the currant bed settle for a day or two, then get the gooseberry bush out of its pot and planted out properly. There's a few weekends more hard graft to go (and I need space to put my potatoes!), but at least we've made a start.

*Wonders if it's time to start the guerilla-gardening in the village.