Slow painting

Thursday, 24 March 2011

To plastic or not to plastic?

...isn't actually a question I ask myself. But I see so many plots swathed in plastic sheeting over the winter months that there are obviously plastic afficionados out there. I know that it keeps the weeds down. I know that it means that you don't start the spring by weeding. But I can't reconcile growing with smothering the soil for months at a time. I want to see frost sparkling on the hard earth, puddles shining in a sudden shaft of weak sun, Ted Hughes' 'attentant sleek thrushes' stabbing at worms. It seems the gardening equivalent of keeping the plastic covers on the suite in the front room.

Our winter cover this year was a mass of dead phacelia, flattened under the December snow. I feared a strenuous job of digging in wiry stems.

But the first forkful revealed a clean, bare, fine tilth. It was the tilth of seedbeds, which I have only read about but never achieved. 'I have a tilth', I kept saying to myself as I swept away more stems. No digging in, or up. Just a bit of sweeping, and underneath healthy soil which had been rained, snowed, frosted and sunned upon.

The other thing that puts me off plastic is that you have to do something with it for the rest of the year. And our shed is full already. But are there any bloggers who have answered 'yes!' to the plastic question?

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Garden path

First time I've seen polka dot slush. This was a path in my dad's garden last weekend. We travelled north on Friday evening with a weather forecast that warned of snow and gales. There was snow around the Drumochter pass and Dalwhinnie, but the roads were clear and we did the journey in a fast 3 hours. On Saturday morning it started to snow, imperceptibly at first, that fine, small snow that ushers in a blizzard. 'Leading snow', it's called where I grew up. I thought of Robert Frost's poem, 'The Onset':

"Always the same, when on a fated night
At last the gathered snow lets down as white
As may be in dark woods, and with a song
It shall not make again all winter long
Of hissing on the yet uncovered ground"

It snowed for the whole of our visit, but wetly at our low level of 300 feet. On Sunday morning it was at the wallpaper paste stage, and my thoughts of early spring gardening had to be abandoned. Not that there was much to do - my dad's 'young' friend in his 70's had been recently and dug over all the borders and pruned the apple trees.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Instant Spring

or 'Spring in a Box'. This little lot cost me 30 quid, but it was worth it. I NEEDED some signs of Spring, particularly around the front door to welcome us home from what are long days at work and school at the moment.

Looks like I planted them in the nick of time, because we have woken up to snow falling today. Dreary, wet snow, coming in on a raw wind. True winter seems to have been suspended since our December snowstorms. I'm hoping we don't have too much of a catch-up.

Thursday, 3 March 2011


We had to admit defeat on Sunday. During the week the broccoli and kale had been stripped bare by the pigeons. The netting had pulled free of its pegs at one side of the frame, leaving a big, inviting gap. At that point I lost heart completely and decided just to take the plants out and get the ground ready for something else.

The winter netting has been a big disappointment given the investment in a 'proper' cage and heavy duty netting. We think that the netting is too heavy for the pretty lightweight aluminium poles. It offers a good surface for the wind to catch, and it's so heavy that once it's in motion it drags out the steel pegs from the soil. On the build-a-ball cage this also knocks over the supports. On the recycled climbing frame there's no such problem, but the netting just lifts free from its moorings leaving a doorway that basically says 'pigeons: this way'.

We'll try again but with lighter netting. Meantime, any suggestions for what to do with yards of heavy-duty netting, apart from a good bonfire?