Back to bleak (530)

by Max Akroyd

The tomb-cold of the last few days has been broken; unfortunately there’s grey drizzliness in its stead. I hadn’t managed to keep the fire in over night and the house felt damp. The prospect of a long morning on the field didn’t appeal too much either. But I’m within touching distance of having the garden ready for winter and unfrozen ground greatly expanded the open options.

Yesterday afternoon had been devoted to strimming, the vicious cut of the wire ripping up last season’s drab tide of weeds and rediscovering the original outline of things – defined anew in the clinical winter light. This makeover is nearly finished which is just as well as I’m out of petrol and strimmer oil.

The only area of the garden not ready for its end of term photo is the large, allotment-size area nearest the house known as the Kitchen Garden. It’s an intimidating area to get under control even with plastic taming most of the ranks of long raised beds. Probably because it’s the first thing you see as you enter the garden it has to be right. In the medium term we’re going to enclose it with a simple fence, but in the meantime I’ve got to structure it with only plants: this means ultimately windbreaks of cardoons, Jerusalem artichokes and raspberry canes enclosing the rows and rows of onions and root vegetables.

Along the top edge of the Kitchen Garden is a thirty metre bed of asparagus. This was planted early in 2009, a great expenditure of time and money. It was done just right and invested with all the hope and faith in the future that any gardening venture should have. The year to come was reading from a different script though and a few weeks after planting the asparagus crowns my wife was in hospital undergoing emergency surgery on her back. The next six months were lost. All but a smallest fraction of hope was dispelled and the asparagus was also lost in a forest of weeds. So to strim these off yesterday was an act of symbolic retribution; the hope-less weeds ripped away and the possibility of renaissance restored.

Having destroyed the top-growth, my plan is to cover the asparagus bed with plastic mulch until the last minute (mid-April) and to hope the asparagus has enough energy in its roots to rise again. A success in this regard would have significant personal value, much greater even than having asparagus spears to eat! 

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By stealing some plastic from an adjacent bed, which wasn’t strictly ready to be unveiled, I earned myself an appropriately enormous bit of mulching fabric to cover the whole asparagus bed. After this lengthy task was completed I was confronted with the slightly weedy and equally long bed which I’d uncovered. (The third one down in this picture, to be precise. The top one is the corner of the asparagus bed and the one in between is wall to wall shallots. Thrilling, eh?)

In the Kitchen Garden

The solution involved weeding said bed while it was still dry from wearing a plastic overcoat for the last three months. I got nearly half way down before sitting in front of the fire became irresitable. I hung around long enough to plant the new area with more shallots and onions: I’d acquired these on a whim much as normal people would buy a magazine, or something.  The Law says I should only be buying singing Santas from the garden centre at this time of year but shallots are more my kind of thing. This is Lucy about to enact the Law of Dogs and Seedlings… 

Lucy and a bit of Rough. Rough behind... oh never mind