Gardening 6

The drought is getting very serious for the farmers – though we are still allowed a hose for 2 hours on odd evenings (since our number is 31) and that has kept the veg garden producing well – especially runner beans, and a couple of plants I bought as courgettes which produce full-size marrows more or less overnight at the drop of a hat. My solitary grafted ‘Super Tom’ has only done moderately though – not more than 100 tomatoes I should think compared to one round the corner which (so I hear) is 8’ high and has 600 on it!

The garden’s a bit of a mess at present because some grass clippings we carefully dug into the new vegetable bed as enrichment for the soil had grass seed in and we now have lawn where there shouldn’t be and dry grass and dandelions where there should! The first of the home-grown produce is just about ready now – carrots’ll be the first. And we’ve a whole cupboard full of apples, pears, rhubarb, tomatoes and beetroot, more beetroot and yet more beetroot!

I am starting on the huge garden. It has a great tennis court of lawn and some more grass and veg, and is spotted with stupid beds in the grass and many queer trees and bits and pieces. They were mad keen gardeners and did some pretty peculiar things to my mind. The so-called compost heaps appear to have everything but the kitchen sink embedded in them and it is all too obvious to me that enormous rose prunings and suchlike will never rot down in a thousand years, so I shall have to do a little re-organising in due course. Not to mention the odd plastic bag or bottle that seem to have got in too. But although I am rude about them they actually got things to grow in an extraordinary way and there are all sorts of twigs and bits and pieces stuck into the ground which will apparently take root in time! Except that by then I shall have probably dug them up in my ignorance. There are miles of hedges!!

The trouble is that the compost is so full of weed seeds that wherever I use it I have to go back endlessly to repair the damage! I don’t know why it should be, as I use some expensive and evil-smelling mixture supposed to contain millions of bacteria per cubic hair’s-breadth so that the compost ought to be beautifully sterile.

The lemon tree is bowed down with ripe fruit and every other stage of growth, which is a good thing as I’m down to my last pot of marmalade, the peach blossom and prunus are in flower, the buttercup and mimosa trees too, and the camellias are still flowering. Also the daphne which smells delicious, the forgetmenots and odd daffodil too, and lilies of course and masses of pink daisies that go on for months.

Lemon tree

We all keep on gardening

My B&B business is still thriving, nearly all the proceeds of which go into the upkeep of the garden. However hard I try to be abstemious, I always end up spending a fortune on seeds and plants each year, and then wondering why I have to spend so much time watering when the weather is hot and dry! … some things did extremely well, such as roses, peas, garlic, onions and autumn raspberries, while others failed quite spectacularly, in particular, summer raspberries, most tree fruit and broad beans. All my tomatoes and peppers were very late producing anything edible, due to the lack of sun in early summer, but there wasn’t a sign of the usual infestation of whitefly. There’s no pleasing gardeners, is there!

I had a lad who helped with the mowing for most of the summer. Very useful but he did it so badly that it nearly drove me to drink!

The ground is squelchy with wet after last night’s downpour and there won’t be very much more I can usefully do in the garden until it dries up a bit! The poor little seedlings do look bedraggled after it and I might earth them up a bit I suppose, but it seems rather fiddly and pointless to mess with them. Actually the slugs will finish them off in one more night if I leave them I expect – they have devoured a line of carrots, the first line of kale and sprouts and all the dwarf beans to date so there isn’t much hope I feel!

There is quite a large backyard which has an orange tree and some vegetables which I planted. However it mainly looks very run down as nothing has been done to it for years. I expect I will have to battle for several more years to rid it of noxious grasses which just take over if not kept constantly in check. Come autumn I will have planned it (I hope) and can plant some shrubs and ground cover which should improve it greatly. I have things in the front garden now – some cooking herbs, a climbing rose (to hide the iron fence), a white and ordinary coloured lavender, a rosemary bush, and two daisies both of which have a fungus and will have to be destroyed.

…if you’re against strong poisons on weeds and have only a small area, a drop of petrol will go down to the roots in no time, useful for between paving.

water creature

 

For my birthday in July everyone generously gave me money so I could put a water feature in the garden or, as X calls it, my water creature.

 

The garden has been lovely, always something new… I got quite a lot of strawberries last year, made lots of my strawberry syrup and bottled it. We shall use most of our homemade jams in the tearoom, muffins & jam etc. I may do marmalade and lemon curd for sale as one can make them any time. We have a good fig tree too, some citrus and mulberries besides plenty of pawpaws. We may do things like homemade bread & pate for lunches, and fruit salad. Youngberries and blackberries are growing well. Hazel nut trees have taken and one sweet chestnut tree, one blackcurrant (one small shoot survived the new gardener!) [Green with envy re this list!]

The weather here in Sydney is gradually getting warmer as spring turns into summer. The trees and shrubs are all in bloom so the City looks great. The Jacaranda trees have been stunning. I went on a garden excursion recently – to see some private gardens in the Blue Mountains. Unfortunately it rained all day and it really rains hard here. Anyway we had to spend a lot more time on refreshments than viewing.

The varieties of potatoes have me intrigued. One of the ‘house’ type magazines I bought had a feature on potatoes: it was really quite an education. One rather intriguing one is Purple Congo which is quite small and dark purple. I t mashes quite well apparently, to a beautiful lavender shade reminiscent of a colour some elderly ladies used to like their blouses. A bit off-putting, so I haven’t tried it, even though the writer of the article did promise it was very tasty. I am not going to have any vegetables other than a few herbs in pots. I cannot get enough sun at the right time for them to grow properly. I don’t want to put them in the front, although many home gardeners of Mediterranean origin do. You see these beautifully staked beans and tomatoes in beds next to the roses, which may have garlic or onions growing under them. … I sort of run out of steam when planting the front, as I came to the foundations of the original house in just that strip where I could plant. So it was digging and prising small stones from between very much larger and heavier ones, and chipping off the sopping old mortar. I couldn’t get out the largest: they were just too heavy, apart from being at a depth of from just above my knees down. I would see people drive and walk slowly past me trying to peer inconspicuously to see what I was doing, knee-deep in my own front garden.