Wednesday, 5 April 2017

tidying the herb bed

The tripod in the herb bed with the only Clematis alpina that's doing really well blew over again.  I suppose it offers more wind resistance than the others.  It seemed a waste to leave it lying on the ground given it is in full flower now, so I had to excavate a hole to rebury the legs of the tripod. That's the trouble with using plant supports.  At just the point you really need them, when the plant is well grown, they have a habit of keeling over in the wind.  Part of the answer is that you have to bury more of the legs than you imagined you would, and I'm sure that a lot of ready made supports aren't designed with enough length below the first horizontal strut for proper internment.

The soil in the herb bed is horribly light for clematis, which is why even members of the Atragene group struggle.  Clematis alpina and C. macropetala demand good drainage and tolerate poorer soil and more drought than most clematis, but even they resent the sand of our front garden.  I feed them, and water them sometimes when I've got the hose out for the pots, but it often hasn't been enough.  If one wasn't doing so well I'd probably given up by now, but the solitary success on one tripod out of four acts as a spur to try and get the other three right.  The one plant that shows what they can do on sand is Clematis alpina 'Ruby', or at least was sold to me as that, but since the flowers are not the same as another 'Ruby' I tried, it might or might not be.  Two men say they're Jesus, one of them must be wrong.

Once I was working on the herb bed I thought I might as well get on and weed it, then I could give it a generous dose of blood, fish and bone.  A coarse clump forming grass, a fine leaved grass and a running grass, a big vetch, a little vetch, goose grass, a rosette forming thing and a little sprawling thing with blue flowers are the particular weeds in that bed, but scarcely any creeping sorrel for some reason.  If I were to take up wild flowers as an interest I would know the names of the weeds, but life is too short to learn about everything.  I recognise them, but don't have names for any of them except the goose grass.  Cleavers, Galium aparine, sticky willy, call it what you will.

The chickens all came to watch me weeding and stood behind their bars, and I felt sorry for them and experimentally gave them some young mint shoots, which they ate, so I tried them on parsley, oregano and lemon balm, which they ate as well, along with some dandelion leaves.  They liked their impromptu salad and began to burble to each other, and I thought I should make a habit of it when it took so little effort to make them happy.  They get a sprinkle of sultanas in the morning, and any leftover boiled potato or rice that's going.  Though I disgraced myself recently at a lunch where there was a great pile of plain rice left at the end of the meal, when I asked my hostess tentatively if any of the rice was in danger of going in the food recycling bin because my chickens would eat it, and she looked at me askance and said that the rest of the family would eat some and she always froze the rest.

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