Wednesday, 20 March 2013

snowdrops and Strulch

The pallet of Strulch I'd ordered arrived good and early.  I do like it when deliveries arrive first thing after breakfast, freeing me from the need to hang around within earshot of the phone, waiting for the driver to call from the public lane asking where we are, exactly?  Today's driver was very cheerful about the fact that his pallet trolley wouldn't work on the gravel, and he was going to have to break down the load on board and pass down all fifty bags to me, one by one.  He didn't grumble about giving me the pallet, either, and offered me a second spare one for good measure.  With the rising popularity of wood burning stoves you get drivers who would rather keep empty pallets for their own use, and are curmudgeonly about handing them over, but he was clearly not a wood-burning man, and said that he got into trouble at the depot if he took too many pallets back with him.

The Strulch delivery was therefore a good experience, although fifty bags looked a lot when it was still shrink-wrapped on the lorry, and really looks an incredible amount when heaped loosely on the concrete.  It is my big gardening extravagance for this spring, instead of buying any pots in the Whichford sale, but it saves so much work weeding that it will be worth it.  And who needs to join a gym to avoid flabby arms when they can spend their spare time lifting fifty bags of composted straw mulch off a lorry?

A gentler task was to plant the snowdrops, which arrived yesterday, a thousand single and fifty double.  The doubles were easy to find a home for, slipping into any little empty spaces in the ditch bed in the back garden.  The singles were destined for the wood, where my aim was to fill in gaps in areas where the existing snowdrops were doing well, while not wasting too many bulbs by setting clumps in places where I'd tried snowdrops previously, and they'd failed.  Snowdrops like to be planted in small clusters rather than singly, according to the advice slips the growers put in the box. I don't know why this should be so (or if it is a cunning ploy to make your thousand bulbs not go so far, so that you will need more next year), but I follow their advice.

My usual technique when addressing a new area is to place clumps a reasonable distance apart, maybe as much as 40 centimetres between groups, and see how they do.  If they are flowering well and have bulked up, the next time I'm planting snowdrops, I put more clumps in the gaps, to make a more impressive display. If they are not doing so well, maybe sending up a few thin leaves but not thriving, I don't waste my efforts planting more in that spot, but try somewhere else.  The difficulty is that after quite a few years of planting snowdrops, if I see a completely snowdrop-free area, I have to try and remember whether I planted them there previously and they have all died, or if I have never tried that particular spot.  Bulbs can be very particular about what conditions they will and won't grow in, as can be seen by looking at the distribution of bluebells in a wood.  In our small wood, and in any other semi-natural woodland you care to go and look at that supports a population of wild bluebells, you will see at this time of year areas where the ground is thick with emerging leaves, often with sharply defined edges, and other patches where bluebells don't grow at all.  I presume it is all down to levels of light and soil moisture.

Planting the snowdrops was a good experience too, until it began to rain.  I ignored the rain for a while, until it became rather un-ignorable.  The Systems Administrator was looking at the rain radar, and told me that at the plant centre it was sleeting.  If I were not incurably optimistic when it comes to gardening I could almost have felt discouraged at that point.

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