Thursday, November 21, 2013

Winter is a-comin in

But there's to be no loud singing of cuckoo! just in case winter decides to come in quicker than it would otherwise. It's cold here. Really cold. Cold in the way that has you thinking "Whoa! What happened to fall?!"
Last night, as I lay in bed wondering why I wasn't sleeping, something I seem to be doing with more frequency of late, I heard the heat pump come on no less than 4 times over the space of a couple of hours. I was fairly distracted by the charms of the BBC World Service, but still, this seemed excessive. I started getting uneasy about the greenhouse. Twice I leaned out the bathroom window with the little flashlight, checking to see if the greenhouse heater was on. I might have been a little sidetracked by the charming visibility of my breath suspended between the light of the LED and the moonlight, but I was not making a racket, no matter what Richard tells you. That's the lot of the obsessed gardener. The wakeful mind does strange things to rational thought and one is always worried about one's citrus.

Now that we're in a stretch of sunny but significantly chilly weather everyone is busy reflecting on how low the mercury will drop, because that's what we do here on the balmy coast. It's rarely cold here and a snap of icy weather has everyone scurrying, but this year it has me outside clearing up the yard, which, when I stop to think about it, is a rather novel experience. Every garden I've lived with up till now has been a relationship based on term limits. Mostly short-term. But this will be the sixth winter we've spent in this house, and unless something untoward happens, we're likely to spend much more than that, and the thought has me contemplating gardening in a new light. There's a permanence, the possibility of extended familiarity with plants and plans. Cleaning up previous gardens used to mean upending the pots into a large pile at the side of the house, then forgetting about them till spring. Rental houses don't led themselves to the long-term, particularly with things like roses or artichokes or garlic, so it was always pots of sunflowers or summer annuals. In spring I'd see what the garden centres sold and buy it. Now I'm clearing up debris from a garden that will likely look very much the same five years from now, and sowing seeds in various winter experiments, like these peas in guttering.

One good thing about the advent of winter: I'm delving into my hoard of garden magazines again. It always seems vaguely wasteful to be reading about gardening in the summertime, when I should be out there doing it, so most of the magazines collect in a basket in the kitchen, where I can contemplate their quirky headers: Banish Bindweed! Protect Your Pollinators! Autumn Action Plan! Make Peachleaf Curl a thing of the past! Alan Titchmarsh: Why every garden needs an acer! (don't laugh but last week I almost bought an acer because Alan convinced me that I DID need one)

There are a lot of local gardening magazines, but I favour the BBC Gardener's World magazine. It's not cheap; in fact it's a shocking price, and most of the time I vacillate wildly when buying it, but it is a useful read. Yes, it's the cost of a nice hellebore, but it's encouraging in ways that most gardeners need now and then. It's got me wanting to revisit the peach leaf curl on my nectarines. Apparently they are too exposed to the winter rains, even though they are against the house. I'm covering them up with a sheet of plastic while I rethink their trellising. I watched a video on Gardener's World about trellising nectarines and let's just say that Monty's nectarine trellis was way nicer than mine. I know it's very shallow of me to vacillate like this, but suddenly I felt ashamed of my Left-over Garden Stake With Broken Pencil Post look. I'm going to have to redo it, or get Richard the Wonder Builder out there. I think there might even be an article in one of my magazines on that too: Build The Perfect Trellis (one you won't be ashamed to show your neighbours).

I had white rot on my garlic this summer, which means that I have to buy new seed all over again. And when I use my garlic I can't compost the skins - they have to be thrown out in case they infect the compost. I had never heard of white rot before, but one look at the white moldy cores of my bulbs and I knew something was wrong. I googled "white mold + garlic" and lo and behold but that was what I had. It can persist in the soil for twenty years or more, which means that site is off limits for a good long while. Sob. Here's the new site: I've covered it with old greenhouse shelving because while Richard might be a Wonder Builder, he's also rather inconsiderate when it comes to pussy footing around the plants. We try not to let him weedwhack if we can help it. My pulmonarias still quiver when he passes. The new garlic bed is right beside the electrical conduit that leads into the greenhouse, and last week, as he was fiddling with the cables he was squatting right on the bed itself. "Get off the garlic!" I told him, with some annoyance. "Is that what's under there!" he said. "I thought I felt something snap." "Then why did you continue to stand on it?" I said. "Because it's your job to worry about the plants, I just build stuff," he said, with rather more mirth than the situation warranted.

I'm back to digging out pernicious weeds, thanks to BBC Gardener's World magazine. I'm attempting to get a handle on the Bishop's Weed Situation in my yard. I'd say "garden" but it's now taken over the entire yard. Stupid stuff. When the kids and I see it as a bedding plant in someone's yard we're always incredulous, because, like vinca, it might masquerade as a bedding plant, but it's just a bloody nuisance. It always gets out of control. I've haunted online garden forums - organic ones and non-organic ones - for three years now and the responses are always the same: Roundup won't kill it, brush killer won't kill it, smothering it with weed fabric/cardboard/mulch won't kill it either. Nothing will kill it. There is no answer but constantly and consistently digging it up. It came to this yard in a nursery plant, and now it's everywhere. I'm trying, one bed at a time, to remove any trace, but it's disheartening work, because even an infinitesimal little sliver will pop up with hearty vigour in the spring, and multiply within seconds into a forest. I gave up last summer, but I feel like trying again. Stay tuned to this channel, because I'm sure the wind will change and I'll feel that same sense of defeat come spring, when it all comes popping up once again. Until then I'll look at this newly weeded bed with a feeling of triumph, even if I do hear the soft ticking of the Spring Weed Clock in the background.

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