Thus far, May has been a month which is definitely not the “Month of Maying” and we’ve all been sheltering from the rain (or in the case of some I know, moving out of the flood zone) rather than dancing on the grass. There have been occasional glimpses of the sun but nothing to write home about.
I was thinking yesterday morning that if someone tweeted “the sun is out at last”, my reaction would be one of “well if it really went out, it would be awfully dark” or “if it’s come out at last then that probably explains President Obama’s sudden support of gay marriage.”
A certain Mr Repton, famous for his red books although he was not related to Chairman Mao, said “All natural objects look best with the sun behind them,” and, over the weekend just ended, I must have looked my best to anything like an earthworm or slug as they looked up to the heavens and that strange bright thing with me in between.
So it’s been a gorgeous weekend, at least here in South Wales; something of which I wanted to take full advantage as the weather forecast was of a return to horrible wet weather on Monday and for the rest of the week.
Making a start on Saturday morning, there was a certain satisfaction in dropping the mower blades down a notch and giving the lawns their first proper cut of the year. As they’re still too close to a “weed and feed” to risk composting the cuttings, it was a case of bagging up. Compressing everything down, I hit the three cubic metre mark which is a lot of grass but then it’s been a couple of weeks since the last trim. The first “proper” cut is also the signal to reinstate the edges properly. Over the last few years I’ve been gradually edging the lawns with Everedge metal edging which, though a bit pricey, will outlive me and probably the next few generations to own this house. It’s a one-off operation which replaces the regular replacement of half rail or plastic edging or just plain half-moon cutting. I needed to do something to replace the half-moon edging process as each year the lawn edges retreated half an inch and I was worried that, in time, I’d meet in the middle, so to speak.
But there’s still a once-yearly attack on the grass roots that have spread into the gravel paths. So on my knees with a hand fork and shears. On its own, that would probably have been a decently relaxing job, crawling sideways around the edges of the lawns. But here I have a major pest (apart from lily beetle) – Himalayan balsam. As a gardener’s curse, it’s second only to Japanese knotweed. Even ground elder doesn’t come close. If a balsam plant produces a single flower, that will shoot its seeds over a circle several metres in diameter. That’s hundreds of seeds with a 200% germination rate. It appeared on a patch of land next to my garden a couple of years ago and now it’s rampant. I’m a sorry individual in some ways and earlier in the year I embarked on a balsam seedling pulling exercise whilst counting. I counted 229 seedlings and a week later pulled another 176 and stopped counting. I’m now filling buckets with the damned stuff.
Anyhow, as I was edging the lawns, I decided to deal with the borders on the other side of the path as I was going along. So instead of just crawling sideways it was a case of do a metre, get up and deal with the weeds in the corresponding metre of border, then back down on my knees again for the next metre and so on. At one point I had a break to trim some hedges but that was simply because my legs just wouldn’t bend in the right places.
40-odd metres of lawn edge and three tip bags full of Himalayan balsam later and I was well and truly knackered. And my knees were well and truly knobbled.
So I did the watering. When you’ve got around 2,000 bedding plants growing on nicely that’s a lot of watering. I thought it might loosen up the joints but no chance. I gave up halfway through, too tired to eat properly so a snack of cheese and crackers and I was soon comatose (but aching) in bed.
Not a time to have a cat! And definitely not a time to have a cat with a doorbell (see Pillster’s Pages – yes the cat has his own doorbell (and blog which needs updating!)). Why is it that he will drop in for elevenses and then ensconce himself on my bed happily until the evening but then it becomes in at midnight for a snack, back out and in at 2am for a quick nap, out at 4, back in at 6, out at 7 ……. It’s only between 8 and 10 in the morning that I get any decent sleep.
That couple of hours brought me to Sunday morning. Still aching from the waist down I dragged myself out of bed and fell down the stairs. Crawling outside after a reviving glass of orange juice, I decided to tackle the fruit planting. But I got diverted by some Himalayan balsam that had escaped my notice the day before. After a tip bag full, I returned to the fruit planting. Three apple trees, 15 raspberry canes and an escaping blueberry later, I returned to the half of the watering I’d left the day before.
This also involves watering the car. Now it’s not a case that I’ve got a Renault Clio and I’m thinking that if I water and feed it carefully it’ll grow into a Rolls Royce. I tried that trick a few years ago, planting some light bulbs but they didn’t grow into standard lamps. Actually it’s a case that the car has doubled up as a greenhouse-come-propagator for the last week or so. It often spends a week each year as a greenhouse but this year I was tempted to buy some late seeds from Higgledy Garden. The idea was good – an area which last year grew a few hundred mildew-infested impatiens (busy-lizzies) would this year be turned over to a range of annuals whilst I decided what to do with it. And Mr Higgledy conveniently sold a package of seeds which could be sown in mid-May. Problem is the ground is waterlogged and no-way will any seed grow in it.
So the car became not only a greenhouse but a propagator. I confess. I’ve got two cars. So losing one for a while isn’t a major problem save that car 1 is a sporty model with a boot big enough for a carrier bag. Car 2 is the load carrier. But if it takes half an hour to empty it and another half hour to fill it again then it isn’t an attractive shopping proposition. So it instils discipline. Which, fortunately, in today’s second-mortgage-a-gallon days is a real bonus. So gardening is saving me money by making me combine all my shopping trips into one a week.
Which saves enough money to pay for the new set of batteries in the cat’s doorbell.