Six Nations is over for another year (well done to England for the grand slam), which can only mean one thing, it's time to concentrate more on the garden. Over the last week, Mr J and I have been reassessing the large and established plants in the garden, checking for their healthiness and vigour. Sadly, we've found two trees with real problems.
One of the plum trees is being killed by crown gall, its gnarled trunk is all knobbly and twisted and several parts are completely dead. Mr J cut back the branches, ready to remove the stump and roots, all of which we will burn to ensure that the crown gall isn't left in the garden to infect other plants. I've read that I should grow potatoes in the ground where the diseased plant was for a couple of years as apparently this will remove the crown gall from the soil (who'd have thought?). As luck would have it, the Maris Piper seed potatoes that I had ordered from Thompson & Morgan arrived on Saturday, so I have popped them into the unheated greenhouse to chit and will them put a few in the space where the old plum tree was growing.
Right next to the plum tree with crown gall is what I think is a pear tree, sadly this too is as dead as a dead thing. It is hollow in the centre, has evidence that either squirrels or mice have been living in it and in addition to that, it is riddled with woodworm.
This too, needs to come out, so I called a local tree surgeon to drop by and give us a quote for removing it and a couple of other tasks that need tackling around the garden.
We've also been pushing ahead with creating some raised beds for the vegetables. A while ago, I purchased a load of reclaimed timber (2 by 4 inches) which are stored away and bit by bit we are removing the screws and nails from them so that they are ready to use to make the raised beds.
On Saturday morning, I started to put them together and made the first couple of raised beds. I wish it was as quick to make them as it is to write about it. After putting in about five or six screws, my hands had seized up and I couldn't grip the screwdriver, so I had to wait for a while for my hands to behave again and for the rest of me to regain some strength before continuing. In the end I asked Mr J to help with making them, this was disappointing as I had wanted to be able to do these by myself (not that I am bloody-minded about things of course!).
In each bed I will put a layer of cardboard to kill off the grass and then fill it up with soil, well-rotted horse manure and peat-free compost, and once our homemade compost is ready, I will add that too. I am itching to get the onion sets planted and also to plant out the garlic which I started inside earlier in the year. The planned layout of the vegetable garden can be found here. I have no doubt that the reality will be different to the plan, but it's a starting point.
The plants in the greenhouse are coming on well and before long I will need to start using the lower level of staging as more and more seedlings are ready to be moved from the kitchen and boot room into the greenhouse. I think there may be a race to get the raised beds completed in time to plant out all the young plants as they are ready. Luckily, we won't need to be constructing raised beds again next spring (I hope), so the amount of work we are tackling will be less, or at least it will be different, next year.
On Saturday afternoon, Lisa from Country Coppicing delivered lots of hazel poles that I had ordered. I showed her around our plot and we talked about how nice it is to make cordials and jams from home grown fruit and I've promised to contact her when the elderflowers are ready for picking and then again when the plums are ripe. We will have far more than we can use, after all, there is a limit to the amount of plum jam, chutney and sauce that one couple can eat in a year. Wherever possible, we are purchasing locally, this makes sense in terms of reducing the mileage travelled and in supporting the local economy. The hazel poles will be used to create support for beans and other climbing plants, some will be used to make low fences for dividing areas of the garden. Lisa told us about the work she is doing in rejuvenating a coppice wood in Newport, it's been left for fifty plus years and they are now revitalising it by careful woodland management practices. Great stuff!
Sunday was a gentler day, the tree surgeon called by in the morning to have a look at the trees that need to come down and then my daughter and her family came to visit. I had a fabulous time with grandson number one. We talked about the toys that he had brought with him and then did some puzzles. These puzzles are ones that my siblings and I had when we were small children, they are good quality wooden chunky puzzle pieces and we had great fun. These designs were new to my grandson but oh-so-familiar to me. I'm not entirely sure who had most fun doing them.
Then we headed outside to meet the ducks. He helped Mr J and I to tip out the small pond and then to refill it with clean water. He was very keen to jump about in the mud and get his boots muddy, but was very good and helped me by opening and closing the makeshift gate in the fence surrounding the duck enclosure. We did 'teamwork' in carrying buckets of water from the standpipe in the paddock (which meant I carried the bucket and he held the handle with me),. We had a really special half hour or so together, just him and me trundling back and forth from the standpipe to duck pond. These moments of shared activity are very special to me. I hope its the kind of thing that he will remember in years to come. He is very relaxed around animals and they respond well to him. No sooner had we tipped one bucket of water into the pond than the ducks were waddling over to see what we had done. Task finished, it was time for my daughter to head home.
All in all, it's been a good weekend, we have continued with our preparation of the garden, laughed a great deal and spent time with the family.