It is a beautiful morning and I go for an early run in the kitchen garden. This new exercise routine is providing an added bonus of giving me an opportunity to check up on the garden…ie. have any onion/garlic sets been pulled out by birds and what parts of the borders will need pruning or cutting back. I try not to become distracted and lose count of my seconds otherwise I might end up running for an hour (unlikely)!
Aideen and I then walk around the orchard, mainly to gaze at our new piece of hard-core free garden! Now we have to clear weeds off the slope of the terrace, prior to seeding with grass. I have already started to dream of filling the slope with crocuses…then I have a crazy idea…why not plant them now? The slope will need to be bare earth to sow with grass, what better time to plant bulbs, but how many? The full terrace is about 70m long, about 40m is backed by arcaded wall and the slope is about 5m. I am thinking of planting the area in front of the arcades (the rest of the terrace needs too much work and we can’t plant bulbs in it yet). This is an area of 200m2, you need to plant about 100 crocus bulbs per m2, so I will need about 20,000 bulbs! I share my idea with Aideen, who looks at me as if I am mad, but resignedly starts looking up the cheapest supplier of crocus bulbs on the internet. We located a company named ‘Farmer Gracy’ and end up placing an order for all of their remaining crocus bulbs. These will arrive in about 10 days from the Netherlands so we will need to ‘get weeding’ fast. Aideen persuades Diane to help her start weeding the slope whilst I finish weeding the Mount and plant the four bottom beds with about 300 bulbs.
Luckily, the mass crocus planting will not be as fiddly as the mount, where each bulb is planted individually and great care is needed to ensure no existing bulbs are disturbed! When we plant the crocuses, we can quickly place them over a m2 area and cover with soil. We will need to work fast with such a large quantity!
The last of the butternut goes into a chorizo, bacon, pepper, olive and pasta dish and I make apple pies and freeze the remaining cooked apple.
I have decided that this morning’s exercise will be digging! Therefore, I am up early and outside soon after 8am, digging out the weeds on the terrace slope. My plan is to try to get a chunk done before the girls come out to encourage them and help them on their way with this horrendous job. I intend to dig until about 10am and then get grandad up and then continue with my own work – planting bulbs in the Mount. I soon find out that the weeds on the terrace are worse than I thought and the soil is quite heavy and sticky. It is also not easy trying to weed whilst balancing on a slope! At about 9am, I am joined by Aideen and at 10am Diane joins us…no one is keen to do this job, it is very hard work.
I return to the Mount, I am now adding bulbs to the next two tiers and I find a new technique which is to allow my leg to hang over the side of the wall which makes the job slightly more comfortable. This job is still slow going, partly because I am trying to avoid the bulbs already in the beds and I am still removing weeds. One side of the mount has become badly infested with fennel…I do like fennel but you can have too much of a good thing! People may be wondering why am I planting more bulbs in the mount if there are already lots of bulbs in the beds. This is partly because some tiers didn’t have certain bulbs last year eg. Alliums were only in the ground level beds and Irises were only in the terraces. I want to include these beautiful blooms throughout the mount. Also, I don’t trust tulips! I planted more than 2000 tulips last year to bloom in time for the 2020 Easter Monday Opening (that never happened), I know that tulips have a habit of disappearing. Therefore, I wanted to boost the numbers. I managed to plant six beds in the mount (out of eight), unfortunately, I didn’t finish but this is unsurprising as it is so fiddly, but I did plant about 420 bulbs. It was quite dark when I finished and difficult to see and I went inside for my online teaching at about 5pm.
Diminishing Enthusiasm for Digging
The weather today wasn’t great, a fairly constant chilly drizzle throughout the morning. My plan for early morning digging as a running substitute didn’t work out so well today because I woke up late. Aideen and I headed out together, but the conditions for digging were horrible. The soil was wet and heavy and the slope was slippery. I had to depart to sort out Grandad and Aideen carried on alone for a while (Diane was helping Patrick) but soon she’d had enough and came out to me on the mount. During the morning, the ‘Rose Tudor’ containers arrived. I am very impressed with these ‘faux lead’ planters, they look very authentic and reassuringly, have been made in association with English Heritage.
I was finishing planting the bulbs on the top terrace and then I intended to start removing the spent mushroom compost from the mushroom house to top up the soil in the terraces. I suggested Aideen helped with this job because at least part of the time we would be inside the mushroom house out of the drizzle.
We started by bringing a wheel barrow down into the mushroom house. However, we soon realised this was making the job unnecessarily hard because of lifting the barrow up and down the steps and then having to use a bucket to decant the compost from the barrow to put on the beds. (The grape vine wires now prevent tipping a barrow into the terrace). Aideen sensibly suggested we just used buckets, which was much easier, despite the extra running up and down the stairs…there is a lot of compost to move. However, it will be a good solution to the bulbs that have become exposed as a result of soil settlement in the terraces. I used a very handy short handled spade, recently acquired by Patrick, for the job of removing the compost from the mushroom beds, which wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected. After lunch, I continued on my own and by the end of the day, I had added a layer of compost to both terraces. My trusty companion, Pip, joined me for the last hour and seemed quite happy sitting in the mushroom house. I was quite surprised to discover that the compost contained quite a few worms, which I presume is a good thing. As it got dark, Pip and I walked across the orchard to see Aideen in her boat and after a quick chat and a cuddle with Pip, we all went back to the house.
At about 9pm when I was trying to write my book, Diane popped her head around the door to say that Patrick and her were going to collect some roses! On further investigation, it appears that some roses had been dug up at one of Patrick’s jobs and left outside, and Diane thought they should collect them before they disappeared. I sit at my desk wondering where I should put them…I’m sure there must be a space or two somewhere.