Tuesday, 23 April 2013

so many weeds, so little time

I awoke to the beautiful prospect of a whole week of gardening.  Well, five days, since we are supposed to be meeting friends for lunch on Sunday.  The forecast is decent, though it might get a little showery by Friday, and my diary is otherwise empty, apart from a concert in the evening on Thursday.  The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and it felt like spring.  I had half a pallet of Strulch, and a boot load of mushroom compost.  Delight.

There is so much to do, it is difficult to know where to start.  I decided to begin by finishing weeding the top of the long bed, so that I could replace the pebble mulch currently sitting on an empty Strulch bag on the lawn before the grass under the bag went too yellow.  And we look straight out of the sitting room window at that part of that bed, so it might as well be tidy and free of extraneous bags instead of a long-term work-in-progress.  I thought optimistically that I would be finished by lunchtime, but the remaining pebble mulch had embedded itself in the soil and it took some time to excavate the stones, pick dead leaves and weeds out of the bed, smooth off the surface and replace the pebbles.

Cold weather has cut back the Bupleurum fruticosum, leaving only a couple of branches alive.  Or at least, I was pretty sure that the rest of the plant was not going to break leaf.  There were new shoots visible at ground level, and I thought the answer was to prune out the dead wood, mulch the plant and wait for regrowth.  While I was at it I trimmed back a very enthusiastic flowering currant that had spread sideways to several times its own height, and was threatening to engulf the Bupleurum.  The latter is a shrubby member of the carrot family, and you don't find many of those. It has elegant sea-green leaves and bright green flowers, held in the clusters of individually tiny flowers typical of the umbellifers.  That is when it is alive.  Mine was mostly leafless brown twigs.

The Systems Administrator mowed the back lawns, for the first time this year.  That has to be a record for us, to be giving the lawn its initial cut on St George's Day.  It could have done with cutting a week back, and the SA was all set to do it, but found the lawnmower battery had flattened down completely after a winter of disuse.  You can't use the portable jump starter on the lawn tractor, since for health and safety reasons it will only work when you are sitting on the seat, and the battery connections are (you guessed it) under the seat.  Today the SA used the push mower, having remembered to charge that up in advance.  It started, but was behaving as if the filters might be blocked.

All this crawling around weeding has worn through the left knee of another pair of gardening trousers, a rather hideous pair of jeans that I bought in a Lands End sale years ago.  I spent a long time searching on-line, and nobody seems to sell proper rugged gardening trousers, made out of really heavy cotton.  This is not just an issue for women (though gardening clothes aimed at women whose chief design feature is that they have pink floral motifs make me want to spit).  Customer comments on the Amazon clothing site were pretty scathing about the fabric (lightweight), fastenings (broke) and construction (shoddy) of most the outdoor trousers for men too.

This isn't a new problem, and my search for good gardening trousers is a perpetual quest.  Before the current jeans, I wore a pair of moleskin trousers from Toast that had become too shabby to wear anywhere else, but finally the waist fastening distorted to the point where they would not stay up, and the seams had started to come un-stitched, which was embarrassing when facing the postman or delivery drivers.  I've experimented with overalls from the farm supply shop, but they go at the knees, and tend to come to bits around the armholes as well.  A pair of cotton combat trousers from Millets wore through in no time at all.  I still wear their sister pair to work, but only when it is cold enough to wear thermals underneath, since one leg has a long rip from a close encounter with a rose bush.  The Systems Administrator suggested army combat trousers, and I'd happily try them if I could track down a pair in my size, but they don't seem too thick on the ground.

Finally on Amazon I settled on a pair of what were described as Work Wear Trousers VINTAGE RETRO Swedish Army Prison Issue 1950s.  They had received one ecstatic five star review, from somebody who did not actually want them to work in, but was delighted that they made him look like a Hoxton art student.  I was more taken by the claim that they were made out of heavy grade cotton, and thought they might not be as flimsy as the Millets ones, though the button fly would be a nuisance.  They arrived this morning, and they are absolutely beautiful, in an extraordinary, heavy, green and brown shot cotton fabric, very high waisted, with a little adjustable belt across the back as well as belt loops.  They are a couple of centimetres too long, but otherwise a perfect fit, and I realised that they were far too good to be immediately relegated to gardening trousers.  I could never bear to kneel on the earth in that shot cotton.  They need pressing, and turning up, and then they will be something that the Toast catalogue would want to charge me a hundred and fifteen quid for.  This fine example of the Annie Hall look set me back £9.99 plus postage, which seems a bargain.  But does not solve the problem of finding some new gardening trousers.

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