Today is another misty, murky, damp and grey day. Patrick has already informed me that I need to get the bulbs in quick because the weather is changing for the worse on Thursday… “Oh and by the way” he adds, “there is some rain today!”….thanks Patrick! However, he has a point, it would not be easy balancing on a muddy slope in heavy rain! It is already quite tricky enough! The scaffold boards we are using to kneel on are very slippery, and you literally find yourself sliding gracefully, or not so gracefully, down the board. I am out quite early to make a start before getting grandad up. When I am called back to the house with a shout because the district nurse has arrived to change grandad’s long term catheter. She looks at me with some curiosity as I arrive at the annexe covered in mud…I get the impression that they think we are quite eccentric!
After Grandad is up and has his breakfast I return to the terrace with Aideen. We work away steadily and thankfully, we are joined by Diane before lunch. I start adding leaf mould to the bottom of the slope to try and improve the soil texture…most things are improved by leaf mould. There are many slipping and sliding incidents, poor Aideen nearly does the splits at one point which was very painful. Even Diane has trouble keeping her balance and she is the sporty one in the family. We try to avoid any long breaks in order to plant as many bulbs as possible before we lose the light. However, we still find ourselves trying to plant the last strip in semi-darkness. It is very frustrating losing the light so early, it is now hard to work outside beyond 4:30pm. We manage to plant 3400 bulbs which is not bad but we still have 15,500 to go!
I then try to dig up leeks and pick chard leaves in the dark which results in me choosing some pretty ropey chard leaves. Very sadly, my leeks have been affected by a new pest in recent years which becomes evident when you remove the outer leaves. The inner leaves have red lines and damage and as you remove them, a dark red insect/grub becomes visible. I will not let this annoying pest put me off, so I continue removing leaves until I am left with pristine leek. Unfortunately, this means less leek to use than usual. The remaining leek is then added to my giant quiche for tonight’s dinner.
A New Home for Snowdrops
Today is a beautiful day, there is a clear blue sky and sunshine. I am outside before 9am and decide to do some outstanding jobs before Aideen and Diane join me to plant bulbs. One of the hardest things about running a garden on this scale is prioritising. Generally, I am the only person doing the gardening, although recently, it has been amazing to have help from Aideen and latterly Diane with the bulbs. Generally, I spend my life compromising and chasing my tail. It is important to not get too bogged down with one task and then forget other important jobs. Today, I am conscious that I have not finished planting the roses and I have a large quantity of snowdrops dug up from the terrace needing a new home. I start with the roses, I take five of them, which I prune carefully, and then bring into the Kitchen Garden to find them homes in the fruit tree border. The problem with this job is it is quite time consuming, the roses need big planting holes to be dug and I am half expecting them not to survive, so it could be a waste of effort.
I feel more positive about the snowdrops. I love snowdrops and we are lucky to have several large patches of snowdrops at Church Gardens, mainly along the front drive. We also had a couple of fairly large areas of snowdrops on the edge of the terrace. Patrick accidentally dug up a large amount of them whilst removing weeds. On reflection, we decided this wasn’t a bad thing because now the nut trees on the terrace have been removed, it is now far more open and exposed than previously. Snowdrops appreciate a sheltered site, therefore moving them may be a good thing. The snowdrops are closely packed in the soil and already have reasonable shoots. I plan to replant them in front of the three nut trees adjacent to the bee hives. I dig out an area and carefully fit the clumps of snowdrops together, rather like a jigsaw puzzle. I infill between them with soil and carefully firm them in with soothing and encouraging words. Hopefully they will be happy in their new home.
At this point, I go in to organise Grandad, and Aideen and Diane come out and head for the terrace. This is a very good system which is a real novelty to me. Some of my gardening work is going to proceed without my presence! After grandad is up and fed, I go outside with my new cox’s orange Pippin Apple Tree from Parkers. I have removed it from it’s box and I am quite shocked to discover it is bare rooted and the roots are bone dry. This new tree is to replace one of my dwarf apples at the top of the vegetable garden. This particular tree, a Golden Delicious, has always performed poorly and this year seemed to be on the verge of death. However, when I went to dig it up, it was strongly rooted in the soil and although leafless, seemed quite healthy. I decide to go ahead with the swap, although my new tree doesn’t look very promising either. I decide the original tree deserves a second chance and I replant it at the end of the forest garden bed, near the bees.
I then join the girls on the terrace, who have already planted quite a lot of bulbs. It is a beautiful day to be outside and there are birds everywhere. Robins are very much in evidence, with their red breasts, particularly bright now Winter is here. I notice two great tits using the nesting box on the garage and a delightful wag tail darting about on Grandad’s roof. Unfortunately, we are not able to stay out as long as usual, but we still manage to plant 3100 bulbs…12,400 to go!