Sunday, 23 April 2017

the drought worsens

I returned today to digging nettles out of the meadow, in the great blank area where the Systems Administrator spent ages chopping down the brambles and I dug out most of their roots.  I'd been thinking I'd better return to the project of reclaiming that piece of garden to keep the momentum going, and then yesterday evening the SA asked me slightly plaintively what I meant to do about the nettles which were shooting up by the day.  The SA really did work very hard on the brambles, and it would be too discouraging to see all that effort go to nought, so as soon as I'd finished the morning's round watering the pots I set off with pick axe and border fork plus small hand tools and a film review programme podcast to keep me going.

When I got there I found I was going to have to water in the meadow as well, because the big patch of primroses that had been doing so well I was planning to divide them and have more had suddenly collapsed.  I was talking about them at yesterday's Plant Heritage meeting with somebody who grows primula far more seriously than I do, and she confirmed my observation that rabbits don't bother with them, so they seemed good ground cover for the meadow, along with the hellebores. Except that now they were shrivelling before my eyes, leaves as limp and wrinkled as a lettuce that had spent a week in the fridge.

We have a hose permanently run up the side of the wood as far as the compost heaps, where it connects to a tap so that we can attach a further hose to take up into the meadow or water the vegetables, when we're growing any vegetables.  A long length of hose was looped multiple times over a fence post for that purpose, but I hadn't used it for months, and it took some fiddling around in the undergrowth to uncoil it.  Rather to my surprise the system then ran without major leaks or mystery blockages, and the spray gun I found sitting on top of an old water butt still worked, so I was able to leave it to sprinkle the primroses while I weeded.  The existing hellebores were starting to flag, though not as spectacularly as the primroses, so I gave them a drink as well.

The wildlife pond is another worry.  Being merely a hole that we dug and lined with a butyl sheet it depends on rainwater to fill it up, or in the absence of rain the hose.  I'd rather leave it to its own devices, since rainwater is probably better for the wildlife than tap, and besides it's an awfully big hole and we are on a water meter.  But by now some of the marginal plants that should be in the shallows are entirely exposed, and a planting basket is sticking up like the remains of a drowned village emerging above the waters of a reservoir during a drought year.  And it is only April.  It is going to have to be given a couple of inches of tap water and I set the hose to start topping it up, but I don't really want to fill it to the brim from the mains.  It's no good, we need rain.

The rest of the day was spent digging out nettles, miscellaneous weeds and the odd bramble, and collecting up the stems from the great clearance that didn't make it to the bonfire in the last round.  Foxgloves have sprung up in places, and I worked round the bigger patches since I can't do all of it at once so we might as well enjoy them flowering before I disturb their roots.  They will probably die after they've bloomed anyway, since Digitalis purpurea is normally pretty convincingly biennial.  Remember that when you are tempted to pay four pounds for one plant in a garden centre.  I found a few wild arums and tried to avoid digging them up, likewise the seedlings of some kind of sedge which I'm hoping might be the relatively dainty Luzula nivea, which is producing its fluffy white flowers now.  If they turn out to be something bigger and coarser out of the wood I'll remove them.

I had to stop at six because I was knackered.  Forget joining a gym, just spend your Sunday digging up nettles and bramble roots with a pick axe to work those biceps.  I hope I have done enough to reassure the SA that I'm on the case.

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