You will probably remember the Heap from last week’s post, if not before: a mound of top soil about four feet high that separates the two pockets of planting along the fence on the northern boundary of the garden. Sitting smugly beneath the annual weeds, pinning a collection of equally unsightly ladders and pipes against the fence, and blocking the view of the sub-border beyond. With most of the weeds stripped off, King of the Hill began the gruelling task of barrowing this mountain little by little up to the vegetable garden, while I took my spade and got stuck in to the compact clay around it. Starting from the near end, I began to dig trenches from the fence to roughly the front of the anticipated border, sifting each spadeful by hand to find and remove the tiny white pieces of bindweed root, and plenty more beaded braids of crocosmia corms. I made slow painstaking progress towards the heap, which dwindled gradually beside me. For a change of view, and also to get out of the way of the barrow when I came too close to the heap, I temporarily shifted my approach to the far end of the border. No bindweed was evident in the soil here so progress was rather faster, although plenty of couch grass roots and big gnarled roots from old trees and hedges lay in wait. Slowly a tunnel was cleared along the back of the remaining heap, when King of the Hill’s blistered hands decided that we would work around the remnant of the heap for the time being. At this point we also ran out of weekend, so it seemed a sensible choice. The following evening, spurred on by this tempting new patch of space, I resumed digging from the near side, making faster progress as the soil here became clear of bindweed. King of the Hill finished the final patch, joining the pieces into a single prepared space, as I took a break to cook tea. Energy replenished, I then came out and shovelled soil around the border, replacing a patch that was rather contaminated from not-entirely-benign bonfires with excess earth that had built up further along the border, before raking it all level. If you squint, you can barely notice that the border becomes rather three-dimensional towards the front/right. We had released a lovely clear view back along the fence from the bottom planting, which is currently dominated by hot pink cosmos, towards the house. And in the process acquired some temporarily light and crumbly soil just waiting for some plants. Preferably before rain and/or footfall returned it to a solid sheet of clay, albeit a weed-free one. Over the following few evenings, there was much lumbering about of pots, teasing of roots*, digging of holes and ceremonious placing of plants. Surprising how long it takes, but several hours of planting later, there is the first glimmer of a young border. There are still plenty of plants waiting to be placed in the garden; some which I will find space for in the gaps here, and some which will have to bide their time a little longer until the remaining borders are prepared – one narrow one along the back of the house beneath the path, and an L-shaped border around the front plot, which is currently awaiting turfing and planting. The last of the soil heap still needs to be barrowed away, and the front edge of the border defined and planted, giving all the plants a chance to find their feet before autumn draws in, but these remaining tasks can’t detract from the satisfaction at the results of our hard work so far.
* If you can define “teasing” as ” trying to ram a hand fork into a solid lump of clay with roots baked into it”