Saturday, 14 June 2008

Ups and downs of nature

This has been a good week and a sad week.

The discovery that our little hedgehog visitor had died has overshadowed the week. It's hard to really explain the delight that was felt by a little wild creature trundling up to our doorstep almost every night, loudly expressing his pleasure at the tasty treats we left out for him. Hopefully another will come along to fill the gap, though I think it's a little late for that to happen this year. In the mean time, Howard will be cutting away the bottom of the chain link fence to avoid any repeat of that tragedy.

The garden has its fair share of frogs, lurking in damp shady patches. Hopefully they will be able to keep the slug population under control - my seedlings have really suffered since Russell's demise.

I had planned to put a pond in the garden at some point, and this week found the perfect design - a small round plant tub, which fitted the spot perfectly and was deep enough for frogs to hide under the plants. We sunk it into the ground, and have surrounded it with marginal and shade tolerant plants. So now there are plants in place from just after the back door to the honeysuckle bush where Russell is buried.

We also finally completed the planting of the herb bed in the front garden. Well almost complete. Today I found a Bronze Fennel and a Sage plant that I need to find space for out there. Well at the least it looks much better than a scrappy patch of grass full of plantain and thistle, which is how we found it. And obviously it's supremely functional. I can look out of the kitchen window and decide what herbs I need to add to my cooking, then just step out the door and pick them.

The pavement and path sides have been planted with aromatic herbs. Not just lavender, but also Southernwood and Balm of Gilead. Dotted between plants for some instant colour are Pot marigolds and Nasturtiums. To add to the "cottage garden" feel, I've planted a few Hollyhocks near the back wall.

Today we visited Audley End Kitchen Garden, a place we always find inspirational. We visited it for the first time in the Summer of 2001, shortly after taking on the first allotment. It made me think carefully about the crops and fruit I grew, and I resolved to try to grow as many heirloom and heritage varieties as possible. Shortly after that first visit I joined the HDRA, now known as Garden Organic, and we try to visit Audley End 2 or 3 times through the season.

Anyway, talk of traditional gardening style prompts me to look at what taksk The Wartime Weekend Gardener recommends for this week:

Start lifting First Early Potatoes. In spite of the erratic weather we've had this Spring, there seems to have been the right combination of rain and sun for the early potatoes to start coming into flower. I know I plan to lift a batch for tomorrow's dinner.

Sow another batch of Runner Beans. As the rain at the end of May brought out enough slugs and snails to lay waste to the first generation of beans, this is a very good idea.

Get busy with the hoe to keep the weeds down. Weeds - the plants that seem to be growing happily without undue attention for the slugs. It's a dull job, but it needs to be done for there to be anything to harvest!

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