Lisa Nunn - 25 March 2011
Alternating between the kitchen and formal gardens, this month has been a real mix of tasks including pruning (currants, gooseberries, hydrangeas, clematis, fuchsia), bed preparation (onion and herbaceous flowers), seed sowing (spinach), triple digging, grafting, tractor training and on going mulching. Finally planting out the broad beans was a particularly exciting moment last week – the season’s begun!
So, triple digging. This is where you dig 2 spits deep, followed by breaking up a final spit’s depth using a fork. We are planting one bed of cabbages using this method alongside a 2-dig bed and a single depth bed to observe the differences between them. One gardener at Knightshayes certainly praises the method highly, claiming that the results of the triple dug bed will produce cabbages twice the size of the others. We’ll see. What it is certainly good for is warming you up when it reaches -3 in the morning.
Behind the kitchen garden at Knighthayes there is a further terraced area, known as ‘The secret garden’. From April, it will be open to the public as a demonstration organic garden, showing what is achievable organically on a small scale (i.e. a back garden). With antisocial delight, I enjoyed spending a lonely few days up there last week; laying out and planting a herbaceous bed full of Iris, Astilbe, Geraniums and Astrantia major with a panoply of bird song as a backdrop (with thanks to The Decemberists gig the other night for the use of the word panoply).
For those of you who work indoors, resenting how much I am relishing being outdoors (I do know how that feels), you’ll be glad to hear that I’ve also been spending time in a shed learning how to graft. Practicing on Acer, Lime and Malus wood was a great introduction to the skill of grafting as the wood is fairly soft (especially on the lime). The trickiest part for me was a persistent awareness that I needed to lock my right thumb in place so that it moved with the blade and cut the wood not my flesh. It is certainly a fine art; but also something which practice (and a sharp knife) will lead to success.
Finally, I witnessed a beautiful moment whilst pruning hydrangeas a few weeks back where a toddler was standing beside his grandparents transfixed (for a good 20 minutes!) by the parked tractor before him. Given the opportunity to drive a tractor for the first time last week, I was reminded of the boy’s state of owe. Generally, big machines that make loud noises generally don’t excite me much and I often argue that if a hand tool can be used then it should. Yet, I admit that being behind the wheel of a vehicle with giant wheels felt good. Happy days for now…but maybe the novelty will wear off.