Updated: Feb 28, 2019
Another beautiful day, warm enough to hang out the washing! Came back from Church quite late, amazingly one of my choir ladies has already read the Optima article. Today has been a typical gardener's day, a mixture of highs and lows. On the positive side, Betty the Bougainvillea is showing signs of life. She was moved inside for the winter with Colin the Cactus and they sit in the window behind where I teach my music students. For some weeks she has looked completely dead, but this morning, I noticed some time new shoots. This will be a great cause for celebration amongst my pupils who keep a close eye on these two plants. Roll on Spring time, because there are plants everywhere in the house sheltering from the weather. Including an ever increasing (by propagation) collection of succulents in the extension and a bowl of water with what remains of my water lettuces from the pond - their continued existence being further complicated by the cats drinking their water.
On the negative side, my venerable garden fork somehow ended up 'handle first' in the embers of the bonfire and half of the handle has melted away.
My main achievement today was to start planting the stepover apples and pears. As with all new tasks in the garden I have to consult my large collection of books - I have learnt to do everything by reading about it - however, there is not much information on the initial training of stepovers. I have the supports in place, and plant the first three apples, a Discovery, Falastff and Fiesta (Red Pippin). I then very gingerly start to coax down the two arms of the 'Y' joint. I am very careful not to put too much strain on the 'Y' joint and fix the arms in place with soft string (four strands together) to prevent it cutting into the bark. I then plant the two pears, Concorde and Williams' Bon Chretien. These plants seem much tougher, bigger and less flexible than the apples, in fact I had read in Carol Klein's 'Grow Your Own Fruit' that pears are generally too vigorous to grow in this way and I am beginning to understand why she says this. Someone should tell Pomona Fruits who supplied my stepovers! I nervously tried to secure the arms of the 'Y' in place, the system is to gradually move them down during the growing season. I think everything is okay, I have also added a supporting cane to the main stem and fixed this to the support to stabilise the plant, this was not necessary with the apples. However, when I came to check on the Williams' pear a few minutes later, the righthand arm had partly broken quite close to the 'Y' joint. I am stunned, I was so careful, and I was convinced I hadn't put too much pressure on it. What to do now... I decided to bind up the arm with masking tape and fix it loosely to the support, and say a prayer... I am so upset, and I feel very guilty that I have damaged my precious tree! It really brings it home, that although I am so excited with the recent success of the garden and I am constantly thrilled by the beauty of the plants, looking after this lovely garden involves a steep learning curve and a great deal of trial and error - I am completely dependent on my books and God's blessing. I finished the day topping up the water tanks with leaf mould before I plant the strawberries. I have worked out the spacing for the Strawberries and this ideal high-rise accommodation, humous rich and well drained can only house 18 plants and I have 96 in the polytunnel! I decide that the rest of the strawberries can grow on the ground to provide weed suppressing ground cover for the rest of the fruit... Oh well, I guess there should be enough fruit to feed all the humans as well as the slugs and woodlice at Church Gardens - we'll have to wait and see!