24/10/2020 The weather forecast this weekend is bad, which is unfortunate as we have hired a digger and dumper to dig out the entire driveway and fill it with hard-core and ‘type one’. We have planned this massive job to coincide with half term and our intention is to get the whole driveway and parking area to a stage where we can put down a new surface that will give improved access, particularly when we have disabled visitors. The other ambition is to finally get rid of the massive hard-core pile in the orchard that has been an eyesore for the last 25 years. We are hoping to use up a lot of hard-core in the drive and get the rest taken away. Everyone is out bright and early making start on the digging. The weather is a bit drizzly, but the really bad rain doesn’t start until we come in…thank goodness!
I go out to the vegetable garden and clear the bed previously inhabited by the Lingonberries, which have now moved to the forest garden bed. I then plant some garlic, the magnificent elephant garlic with cloves as big as some garlic bulbs, Solent Wight, Lautrec Wight, Provence Wight And Caulk Wight.
Whilst clearing the bed, I unearth lots of daffodil bulbs, which I move elsewhere, and a number of self-seeded Euphorbias which I transplant to the field border. This isn’t all of the garlic, I will wait for space to ‘free-up’ to plant the remainder along with Autumn onions and shallots.
I then head off with my big green barrow (already fairly full) thinking I could fit more in it before making the trek to the compost heap to empty it. I cut back all dead flower heads on the Ladies mantel in the border – 6 big plants. Many dead flower/seed heads will be allowed to remain, but the Ladies Mantle benefits from being cut back, this job has already been done elsewhere ages ago. I deadhead a lot of Zinnias when I go past the mount and also pull out some very large weeds. The barrow is quite full now and heavy, and I heave it round to the cold frames. This is another job that needs doing. One section of the frames is tidy and has weed supressing membrane covering it, another section is planted with radishes, spring onions and carrots but the remaining areas require weeding and covering. This is necessary as this will be where I over-winter more than 200 dahlias. These will be dug out quite soon when the frost kills the blooms and their tubers placed in pots for the winter. The beds they vacate will then be planted with tulip bulbs. Pip joins me in the cold frames for a while to give me moral support because I’m quite achy now. The rest of the family are doing well with the digging…Aideen is in the digger and Diane is in the dumper. Meave is helping Patrick continue to cut the front field hedge that was abandoned, partly cut ages ago…it is a hard job as it is very high and some stems are tough and thick to cut.
When I finish the cold-frames, I decide to empty the green barrow…but it is extremely heavy and uses up the last of my energy as I tow it to the compost heap. I love gardening but no one can pretend that it is not hard work. I just hope I have the strength to keep going for a few more years…another 20 would be good!
The Day of the Triffids
At the end of yesterday, we had torrential rain which continued throughout the evening and a lot of the night. We are quite fearful of the condition of the drive this morning, considering the plan is to continue digging it out! Luckily a major advantage of the garden at Church Gardens is good drainage. When these gardens were originally constructed, hundreds of years ago, falls in the ground were created, drains put in and good flint/gravel bases were put under paths and drives. It is very rare that I’m prevented from working outside due to water logging.
Everyone is outside for an early start and digging continues. Fortunately, the weather is dry and quite sunny. I decide to tackle my bed of triffids today, which is the old raised bed next to the polytunnel, which is home to the bionic rhubarb, some sickly blueberries and a monstrous horse-radish. This bed has been rather neglected this year, now the horseradish is collapsing everywhere and there are lots of weeds in the bed and the path.
I practically fill the green barrow just cutting back the horseradish. I spend all day working on this area and it looks much better when I’ve finished. Aideen is out in the orchard sucking up leaves with the tractor/mow
Earlier in the day, Aideen and I, accompanied by Minxy, walked around the orchard discussing the stream and the trees. The stream is now flowing impressively after all the rain and we were discussing how best to restore it. I think the final section before our proposed pond should remain quite a straight formal channel. The section beyond that is wider and more naturalistic and can be planted accordingly. The final pool where the water pours down from the pipe is overgrown by a nut tree, so we debated what should be done about that, whilst Minxy, unwisely, rushed across a very narrow ledge above the gushing water pipe. Luckily, she did not fall in! We then walked around looking at some scrappy seedling nuts and sycamores that could potentially be removed and replaced with more interesting specimens. By the end of the day the drive is completely dug out and is now ready to be covered with membrane and filled with hard-core and type 1. I suspect this will take the whole of half-term and I will have to come off gardening duties to help!
Who’s been eating my cabbage?
Early this morning, Patrick hurried upstairs to say that he was going to take the day off. This is very unusual, but he had his reasons…the weather forecast was very bad for Tuesday and Thursday and he was anxious to get the membrane down on the newly dug drive before it became too wet. In order to do that, the wooden edging had to be in place down the full length of the drive. Although Aideen and Diane had bravely said that they would continue with putting in the boards, we all know it isn’t easy to knock the pegs into the ground, which is like rock, and would be much easier with Patrick’s help. He also realised that we need to dig out more earth at the entrance to the drive, so Aideen was unceremoniously dragged from her bed and installed in the digger by 8am! We had to hurry up because the digger was being collection that morning. The digging was finished before 10am and we now have a mountain of earth to be taken away! Before continuing with the drive, Aideen and I contact Parkers to enquire where my bulb order is. I do worry that items may get delivered to the wrong place, as delivery drivers often have difficulty finding us and I don’t want to lose my bulbs! They explain that the order has not been dispatched yet because everything is not fully ready. I ask for anything that is ready to be sent, particularly the daffodils because they need to get in the ground and it will take a while to plant 3000 of them!
In the meantime, I will be helping with the driveway. Patrick continues putting in the boards, while the others chop at the sides of the drive to give a good edge. I concentrate my efforts on a large patch of big tough roots that are sticking through the surface of the drive. I think these belong to an old conifer on the boundary with the church and my efforts are fairly fruitless and we compromise by allowing the big roots to remain under the membrane. At the end of the day, hard core removal begin and we put in the first few metres of hard-core and type 1…only 57 metres to go!
I decide to cook a roast tonight, chicken stuffed with sage, onion and pear from the garden, roast potatoes and parsnips with rosemary and garlic, Yorkshire puddings, mashed swede and cabbage.
But who has been eating my cabbages? Several of the beautiful juicy white cabbages have been massively chomped on one side. It does not look like slug damage, it literally looks like they have been bitten into. I wonder if it is rabbits, but I haven’t seen rabbits in the vegetable garden for ages. I cut off the damaged parts and leave them in the sink to soak.
A miniature forest garden
Today, the weather is horrible as expected and Aideen, Diane and myself are the ‘chain-gang’ working on the drive for the day. This is extremely hard work, involving loading up the dumper from the hard-core pile, which takes ages to fill a load, then the hard-core is tipped into the drive and has to be hammered with club hammers to break it up. Finally, type 1 has to be shovelled into barrows and tipped over the hard-core and raked over. Normally when there is more of us, different teams do each job, either loading or hammering. We keep ourselves going through the morning, as we get steadily more soggy and covered in mud and grit, dreaming about lunch! In the afternoon, a delivery arrives in a not particularly large box from Kore Wild Fruit Nursery. It is difficult to imagine what will fit in this box which I take out to the polytunnel to open. Unbelievably, it contains three Sea Buckthorn, one Date Plum, one Thimbleberry, one Raisin Tree, one Salmon Barberry, one Salmonberry, one Balloon berry and two treacle berries! Needless to say, the plants are very small… I dread to think what James will say! The nursery have been very helpful and sent an email to advise me about care for the Raisin Tree. This little seedling has been in a glass house so far and will require protection from cold temperatures to start with. Although the plants are small, they are reasonably priced and I’m sure they will grow on quickly. A plant has got to start somewhere! I will mark them with canes so they don’t get completely lost in the giant bed.
After a substantial lunch from the village bakery, we drag ourselves back outside and by the end of the day, we have completed about 10m of the drive, only another 50m to go!!! There are some injuries, I am hit by a brick being thrown by Aideen into the dumper on my RH fore finger, which was very sore but no lasting damage. Then Diane got a load of grit in her eye when Aideen hit a brick with her club hammer. There does seem to be a common denominator here…thank you Aideen! Patrick comes to help us at the end of the day, but it gets dark very quickly now and we came in before 6pm.
Aideen and I put together an email to send out to friends of Church Gardens to let them know about our Zoom talks. These will be held on the 3rd and 4th of December and we are hoping people will want to sign up for tickets.