Sunday, 24 January 2016

back in the garden

For the first time in a fortnight I got back into the garden.  The air had lost its raw quality, and my incipient cold seemed to be on the retreat.  An article in today's Observer claims that the human body has evolved to feel depressed and lethargic during the first five to ten days of a viral infection, as a tactic to keep the sufferer lying low and out of harm's way while the acquired immune system cranks up and does its work.  I tend to take all health claims in the papers with a hefty pinch of metaphorical salt (by now I am utterly flummoxed over whether we are supposed to fry things in olive oil or not).  However, I have also tended to dismiss the early signs of colds as 'only a cold', a trivial condition to be over-ridden through willpower, not warranting any change to my plans until things get desperate.  And I have a history of suffering from strings of hideous, persistent and debilitating colds, so maybe yielding to my first instinct to shut down and do nothing is a better idea.  I couldn't entirely do nothing without messing various people around too much, but I did quite a lot of nothing.

One job I finally got done was to pot up the ''Concerto' tulip bulbs that have been sitting in a box in the garage.  The ideal time to plant tulips is said to be November, and late January has to be pushing it quite a lot, but while they were sprouting they still felt firm.  I am more worried about the compost than the bulbs, since when I peeled back the top of my only bag, which has been open since November when I potted up the other tulips, it had dried out a lot.  Peat based compost is notoriously difficult to re-wet, but I left the pots of 'Concerto' to stand in trays of water overnight and hoped for the best.  There was a mouse nest in the bag as well, which I cleared out cautiously with a small shovel in case there was a mouse in it.  There wasn't, and I think it has been electronically zapped by now, but the rest of that compost had probably better go to top dress the dip in the lawn where the drains collapsed, and I'll start again with fresh for the seed sowing season.

I swept through the conservatory as well.  There was a tiny bit of botrytis in there, and the forecast is so mild I have left both doors open tonight, to get the air flowing through.  Botrytis is that grey, fluffy mould that grows on dead leaves and stems, and can spread to attack living ones.  It thrives on cyclamen, salvias, and any dead flowers it can find, and had started to take hold on the tiny stems of a rather weedy little small leaved nasturtium whose name I can never remember, mainly because it has never yet put in a memorable display.  Good air circulation is one of the best defences against botrytis, and if I were not such a cheapskate I would run the electric fan heater in the conservatory more regularly.  The bulbs at Kew get electric fans, lucky things, to keep the air moving in their greenhouses.  The cushions on both conservatory chairs were absolutely filthy due to Black and White Alsatian Killer Cat having lived in there during the mild spell when the doors were constantly open.

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