On my morning rounds, I gazed admiringly at my little pomegranate bush and at how much the little pomegranates had grown…then I realised that the biggest one was not a fruit it was a flower! Silly me, the little bright red/orange beads were buds not fruit! Well this does make sense when you think about it, you need a flower before you can produce a fruit! I have been a little premature putting us in the same bracket as Chelsea Physic Garden and their fruiting pomegranate, we must wait and see if the flowers form fruit.
After getting dad up to face the day, I decide to spend what I know will be a long-time phoning my pupils. I want to check that they are all ok and talk to them about when we might get back to lessons, which I hope will be in September. Also, to offer anyone who feels it would be helpful, a few online lessons before the end of term. Luckily most of my pupils are quite easy going and self-reliant and are happy to wait until September. This is a huge relief as it would be very hard to teach everyone ‘online’ and I am not convinced that my style of teaching will transfer well to an ‘online’ format. It was lovely to talk to everyone and they all seem to be coping well and I just pray that we can get back to normality soon.
When I go outside I am soon summoned by a rather excited Aideen who wants me to go to the far corner of the orchard. This is because Patrick and her have opened the gate at the top of the old steps. Normally this gate is nailed shut and it leads into the top of the strip of land that runs between our wall and the field hedge. This strip was probably originally a carriage way that may have run down to London Gate. Patrick has been doing some clearing in this area to give access for restoring the wall. The area makes a lovely viewing point…this is what Aideen wanted to show me.
You can look in over our garden or out over the fields which is a beautiful view of hills and trees. This viewing spot is sheltered by an ancient Yew tree which is full of Ivy. The Yew’s position is probably significant, we have another Yew next to our main gate on another corner of the property, I believe they were planted in these positions to keep out evil Spirits…however, there speaks the person who thought she had grown pomegranates!
I didn’t manage to get much gardening done today but I did plant out a tray of 40 Cleome and Osteospermum Limpopo, that have been outgrowing their tray in the polytunnel. I became aware of the rather exotic looking Cleome when I saw it being planted amongst vegetables at Fulham Palace Gardens, which we visited last year. It has been quite tricky to grow, only a few plants germinated from my first sowing so I tried again, and now I have 17 strong plants. Intriguingly, it is one of several plants including Fritillary Imperialis that has quite a strong smell, like cannabis. I have planted these in the shorter beds at each end of the fruit cage. In these beds, I have also planted two new (to me) varieties of rudbeckia Prairie and Hirta Maya. Naturally, prior to planting out these new additions these beds had to be weeded and the sweet peas dead headed and tied in – much as everyone loves the sweet peas, they are practically a full-time job in themselves!
I finished the day (actually evening, 8-9pm) by making a start on weeding the Autumn onion bed. Unfortunately, the onion beds have been neglected of late, particularly beds like this where the crop is finishing. I must make sure the new onions are kept weeded because they do not appreciate the competition…however, I’ve made this job rather tricky by edging the bed with beautiful but towering cornflowers, which are quite precarious, it’s easy to knock them over! The Autumn onions are overrun with field bindweed which is very prevalent in this area. Field bindweed is a smaller leaved version of Common bindweed and is more ‘clump forming’ but it still entangles other plants. This makes its presence in an onion bed very tricky, it is hard to remove without pulling out some onions with it! All bindweed is almost impossible to eradicate in an organic garden, bits of broken off root will always remain in the soil and the plant will regenerate, you must admire its tenacity! The only approach is to keep removing it…if I managed to do this often enough, potentially I might exhaust the plant – it needs leaves to reach the sun to make food. I think it is much more likely the field bindweed will exhaust me…if it’s any consolation to organic gardeners out there, on a visit to Highgrove last year I noticed a bad infestation of field bindweed in Prince Charles’ Kitchen Garden…it is obviously no observer of privilege! My plan when I finally manage to clean up this bed is to interplant my dwarf French beans into the spaces. The dwarf French beans are the last of the ‘desperate’ vegetables to be planted. After this, I only have the leeks (calm in root trainers) and my second crops of brassicas and lettuce and basil to plant out. Now it is time to start re-sowing to provide a succession of beetroot, calabrese, lettuce, dwarf French beans – I might even plant some fresh cucumber to extend their season. I’ve just remembered that I also need to plant out the melons, but they need to go in the cold frames and before that can happen, guess what…I need to plant out the dahlias and cannas!!!