It is a wonderful feeling when the orchard is in full bloom. Warmer days, lighter nights and singing birds. The orchard has been largely left alone apart from cutting back the tall grasses and giving the trees their space back. Apples and plums previously espaliered are now bushy, so I need some advice on whether or not I can or should return them to espalier. Although I see the reasons for doing this particularly against a wall, my own feeling is that I don’t really like interfering to that extent, preferring everything to have a more natural shape and poise, too much manicure goes against my instincts. I would prefer gentle nurture, but I am just learning.
Not being able to direct sow any vegetable seed has created extra work in the greenhouse, now fully repaired, but it is by far the easiest way to manage everything for now. The beds are nowhere near ready to hold plants of any kind.
Soul searching about how to get the most from the garden to give some return for the time it takes to keep it productive, I researched for months about how I might make the garden pay for itself, but all things along these lines challenged the atmosphere of the garden and my own ethics.
Any kitchen garden is intensive however delicate the intentions of the gardener. If it is managed in some way it then must be against the natural form of the indigenous or local plant population. Ideas like flower farming, selling veg, even if that were seasonal produce, jarrs with the whole ethos of the garden. This garden has its own atmosphere and I will maintain it in keeping with that character of traditional kitchen gardening, being as sensitive as possible to seasonal food and flowers. As non-intensively as I can.
I love roses, and that includes the blowsy peony. After clearing a dense area of five feet tall stinging nettles from the area under the west wall, I then cleared a four feet mound of rubbish from just inside the west gate. Some of this rubbish had composted over the years, a real mix up of a clearing out.
Having levelled the site and decided that it would grow perennial flowers to cut, I started at the south end of the border with the rotavator pulling out barrowloads full of nettle roots freeing up the blades every few minutes or so it seemed. Halfway along, I spotted a deep red coloured shoot peeping through the soil, and looked further across and there were more, the top half of the bed was full of peony shoots which had been buried under the deep heap of soil and rubbish for years and were now being allowed to make an appearance. I am amazed that they survived.
Slowing down for winter can’t be an option if the garden is to be in any way productive come springtime. Visualising how the business end of the garden might shape up is easy with a wild imagination, but it needs to be functional, practical and created over the next few seasons. A huge aim, making very small steps one at a time.
Marking two beds for strawberries began with canes, vivid blue washing line and my size six wellies for accurate measurement.
A daunting number of jobs to do before March and we are a man down. Only me left.
ToDo list; Remove tonnes and tonnes of stone and paving slabs by hand from the garden. Plan and mark out some growing beds. Plan what to grow. Dig, manure, plan, dig, repair, make compost bins, dig. Manage weeds, begin to prune trees, prune currants, dig. Flowers? Repair greenhouse…
The strawberry bed isn’t marked out yet, but I have propagated runners from the square garden hoping to keep within a very tight budget. One of just many small jobs to get in place amongst all the huge jobs, like moving out tonnes of stone piled up in a heap a metre high the length of the garden
After a short break in Andalucia, we are back to autumn in Northumberland and clearing out the disused nets, broken canes and mouse eaten string from the ice house. a huge pile of non-biodegradables is piling up by the steps.