Tuesday, 20 September 2016

tidying the herb bed

Today I tidied quite a lot of the herb bed, though not all of it so I couldn't cross it off the list of Things to Do.  Once the postman had been I could have dragged the Henchman platform out from the middle of the turning circle and gone on with cutting the hedge, but I suppose I just fancied a change from great piles of eleagnus clippings.  And although much of the herb bed tidying consisted of chopping down the old stalks of mint, lemon verbena and oregano, their stems are so soft they require no effort to cut, whereas the hedge is a bit harder on the hands.

Climbing rose 'Meg' is looking very sad.  I gave her a dose of blood, fish and bone at the start of the season and another handful mid way through the summer and even watered her a couple of times, but it was evidently not enough, and by now most of the leaves have dropped off.  She did not make any new shoots at all this year from low down, while some of the old branches died.  This is clearly unsustainable.  Roses need to keep renewing themselves, or there isn't a lot left, given a few years.

There is an ash seedling growing up through the roof of the chicken run.  I have cut it down to roof level every couple of years but not grubbed it out entirely, because that seemed too much like hard work and because the chickens like a bit of shade and shelter anyway.  After this year's rain in June the ash raced away, and I was thinking that it really was too much and I must make sure to cut it back in the winter, then a few weeks ago it suddenly began to look sparse and thin.  I'm not sure if the problem was simply drought, and the sand is too mere for ash in very hot weather, or if it means the disease has arrived.  Many of the leaves went brown, but did not display the brown staining down the central vein that I've seen in pictures, and the bark of the trunk has not cracked below the affected branches.  But the disease is coming, make no mistake.  We have seen dead young trees in Suffolk.  It is rather gloomy, looking up at your trees every now and then and wondering when they will fall sick, knowing that most of them will.

The herb bed is infested with at least one species of creeping grass, and possibly two.  It (or they) have crept through the roots of the mint and the lemon verbena and the oregano, so it is impossible ever to dig them out entirely.  Experience teaches me that even when the grass has not gone through the roots of other things it is very difficult to dig it all out.  The odd little bit always runs down really deep, ready to recolonise the area even after it's been dug over repeatedly.  I managed to winkle out quite a lot of the roots, and the herbs coexist with the grass.  Once they shoot up in the summer they hide the odd grass stem, and I yank off the tallest bits and try to make sure that at least it can't seed itself.

There is bindweed as well.  I have never worked out how bindweed chooses where to live, and why it is a nuisance in some beds and absent from others.  Is it particular about soil?  Is it spread by birds who don't favour all parts of the garden equally?  I just pull off the top growth and whatever root I can get out with a hand fork, resigned to the fact that I am never going to get all the roots.

The clematis on their tripods are looking OK so far.  I watered them quite often when I had the hose out to do the greenhouse and the pots on the concrete.  The very small bay tree bought as a truly tiny plant in a nine centimetre pot from a garden centre's herb range is finally growing, after a very slow start.  When I first bought it I moved it to a bigger pot and grew it on for a while before planting it out, but once planted it did not like the winter cold or the summer droughts.  Now it seems as though it might have got its roots down at last and be ready to do something.  It would be nice if it was big enough for me to dare to remove the odd leaf for cooking.  So far it hasn't looked as if it could spare any.

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