Outside the Backdoor

Observing what can happen in your own garden even in suburbia!


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A fine tilth

Why is it that one of the hardest jobs of the gardening year is also one of the first?  I’m talking about digging.  Having spent the past few months lifting nothing much heavier than the 25th anniversary edition of Gardeners’ World Magazine, last weekend and today I have been busy confronting the veg plot in the knowledge that, if I want to sow carrots and potatoes, then I need a lovely fertile looking soil and not the rather drab wintry clods of earth that were staring back at me.  So it was out with fork, hoe and rake in an attempt to create a fine tilth.

It never fails to amaze me how many stones I churn up during this process.  When we dug these beds originally, we removed a very large number of stones but, year after  year, more appear!  With carrots in mind, stones are a nuisance or a source of amusement, depending on your point of view.  Stones are often the reason for the hilarious shaped veg that appear which may or may not be much use when it comes to cooking.

Being Good Friday, it was also important to get our potaotes planted.  Family tradition (well no one else I’ve spoken to has ever heard of this!), possibly started by my grandfather, is that you plant your potatoes on Good Friday “when the devil is looking elsewhere”.  This is supposed guarantee a good crop.  So having dug, hoed and raked, we collected the beautifully purple chitted Arran Pilot tubers from the shed and popped them into the soil.

Of course there’s not much to show for our efforts at this stage other than our rather strange arrangement of sticks.  These are cat defences.  There’s nothing like a lovely bit of soil preparation for our cats to presume that we are just improving their toilet facilities!  

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Plans coming to fruition

I do like it when a plan comes to fruition.  Last summer we decided to try to clear another space within the thicket that is our lilac hedge.  We were driven by the need to find a home for another clematis (more about that another time) but were thwarted when, beneath a mass of tangled ivy, our garden fork hit something very solid with an ominous clang!  Now we’ve had one or two surprises when digging in our garden in the past.  I will never forget a similar moment when I heard the clang of the fork and John summoned me to look at what appeared to be an elephant tusk buried in the garden.  On that occasion John dug on, slightly fearful of the tusk like object turning out to be an unexploded bomb, and mightily relieved when it only turned out to be the original grate from the fireplace in the house!  Quite why it was buried down the end of the garden is anyone’s guess.

This time, however, there was a nagging sense of familiarity and knowing.  I suggested that it was just a paving stone.  Years’ ago someone appeared to have edged the border with left over crazy paving that we turn up every so often.  However John said with great conviction, “It’s the base of the brick barbecue come back to haunt us!”  I had completely forgotten about the hideous and extremely unhygienic barbecue that was sitting in the border when we moved in.  We removed all evidence of it above ground during our first summer here and, in doing so, killed an enormous colony of ants!  Since then soil, ivy and various bulbs appear to have encroached and removed all evidence of the concrete base.  John plunged the fork into a number of areas with the same clanging result.  Eventually he found an edge and eased the fork under.  A large C shaped area of earth lifted slightly.  John put the fork down and marched purposely towards the house. “I’m going to find the crowbar!” he said.  After some wrestling, the crowbar worked and the concrete was extracted and removed to another part of the garden.  It’ll probably become part of our anti-fox defences when they next dig a channel under the fence.25605061502_2bd0d1c926_z

Once the main target, the clematis, had been planted, we were left with a lovely large space to fill in front of it, a space which can be seen from the house.  In the spring I always find it frustrating that most of our bulbs are out of sight, down the very far end of the garden, so we decided to scatter the area with crocus, daffodils and alliums.  This week we are reaping the rewards as we have a fine view of nodding heads in the border, adding that wonderful cheerfulness that says spring is here.

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