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Tangled Climbers

15 MAY 2020

Looking back on today it doesn’t feel overly productive, but I did do quite lot of different things. I am reaching that time of the year when I have so many young plants to look after (literally several thousand) either in trays and pots or recently put in the ground, that by the time I’ve attended to their needs i.e watering, staking, tying up, repotting etc. there is little time for anything else. It is also time when weeding reaches excessive levels, I need to clear vegetable beds to plant out seedling vegetables but I would also like to tidy up the many borders and decorative beds that fill the garden. If I’m not careful I can feel overwhelmed and be tempted to hide in the polytunnel where at least I’m in a more manageable space (but even the polytunnel is big, 14ft x 42ft!).

I decided to start by tying up and dead heading my wall of sweet peas in the polytunnel which look and smell beautiful (the perfect antidote to the mornings’ not so sweet smelling duties in the Annexe). The sweet peas are a beautiful mix of colours and it is important to regularly dead head or cut the flowers to keep them blooming. This is a tricky job for a rather large clumsy person such as myself, because I have to balance in tiny spaces in the bed in-between little chilli, pepper and aubergine seedlings, lettuce, spinach, cabbages, strawberries and numerous pots!

After this I plan to start preparing the central border to plant out my new considerable collection of lilies that I’ve potted up in advance in the polytunnel. I get distracted on the way by the pond which has become overrun by blanket weed. I have been ignoring the ‘blanket weed’ situation for some time, but for good reasons. Firstly, I am ever hopeful that frogs or newts (it is unlikely to be both because they don’t like each other) might visit our pond to lay their spawn and I didn’t want to disturb it by pulling out the blanket weed. Sadly, I think that ‘amphibious window of opportunity’ has now passed. Secondly, the bees, particularly our honey bees, appear to enjoy congregating on the rather glutinous surface of the water created by the blanket weed, probably in order to drink, and I was reluctant to disturb them. However, there comes a point when blanket weed has to be removed before it fills the entire pond, and the water was now resembling a thick soup! I decide to remove as much as possible, which I do with a cane – twisting the cane into the weed and lifting it onto the side of the pool. This is ‘stage one’ of the process and gives any pond creatures a chance to escape the weed and return to the water, some helped by me, I will leave the weed on the side of the pond for a least a day. I also remove quite a lot of water mint that has become rather rampant, and transplant some oxygenator that has broken free from one of the submerged pots. The noise of the bees is considerable, but I ignore them and they do not interfere with me (I obviously don’t smell as nice as James!).

After this rather messy job, I start weeding the central triangles of the central borders, and I also give the Pampas grasses a bit of a haircut to try and reveal the lines of the miniature box hedge that are supposed to define the triangular pattern of the mirror border. The problem with doing anything with Pampas grass is that the edges to the slender grass leaves are razor sharp. The combination of these and some large nettles that have infiltrated the border, leave my legs and arms covered in scratches. Pip (the cat) joins me, and settles down to sleep in my green trug, which is a nice thing to show granddad when he is brought out for his walk by Aideen and Meave.

At teatime Aideen shouts for me to come and help in the orchard, and I am asked to help Meave, Diane, Aideen and James carry the very heavy (2.4m x 4.8m) steel reinforcement meshes from the bottom of the drive where the lorry offloaded them this week, to the area inside the top gates. There are five of these ‘monster meshes’ and there doesn’t seem to be any good way to carry them, I certainly struggle, and I reflect that my days of shifting such things should be over!

After a brief spell watering at the bottom of the garden I return to the border to clear up and retreat to the polytunnel before anyone asks me to lift anything else!I finish my day trying to untangle some climbers grown from seed that I have foolishly allowed to sit in the same tray.They are now several feet long and completely entangled with each other.This often happens when runner beans are left a bit too long to be planted out, and valuable time is taken up trying to separate them!I really should have learnt from previous experience.Patrick despite only coming outside in the mid afternoon manages to finish laying his path even though it does take them until about 10:00pm.

He was determined to finish the job, which is brilliant, but he forgot that he was supposed to be cooking tonight (this is his new ‘lockdown’ skill) so Meave has to step in and cook in his place!I guess you cannot have everything… a path and spaghetti Bolognese!

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