Saturday dawned bright and sunny, and I hastened out into the garden first thing, eager to be outside tackling the ever-expanding list of jobs that have been mounting up in my mind for these past few weeks.
My first job was to take on the leucanthemum, whose unattractive decline of the past few weeks had been taunting me. With a pair of shears I soon had it trimmed back to a neat clump of green foliage; its newly small stature belying the swamping effect of its summer growth. With this in mind, I split the plant and removed some clumps, so that next year we can still enjoy its lovely daisy heads without them dominating the bed.
Then I moved onto weeding this border and the fledgling native hedge we planted along the back of it. It was wonderful working out in the hot sun under blue skies; birdsong filling the air around me, accompanied by the hum and whirr of bees and butterflies. The ground was soft and the weeds (some of which were almost as high as the plants) came out relatively easily with a hand trowel, though there were more than I had anticipated. Nettles and groundsel spring up all over the garden, among others, and thistles drift in from the field. Hopefully, in time, my continued efforts will diminish them, if not remove them entirely.
At noon, I had to put aside my tools and scrub up to head off for a much needed haircut; me and the leucanthemum both tidied up at last. On my return, King of the Hill diverted my efforts to the front garden. The topsoil that was delivered earlier in the summer, whose initial weedcover we killed off a few weeks ago, was rotivated and then it was time to level it ready to lay turf, hopefully this week so that it can bed in before winter.
A lot of tamping* and raking and painstaking shimmying of a scaffolding board across the ground ensued, easing out hills and troughs, until finally just as the air cooled and a breeze began to blow in the first drops of rain at 4 o’clock we had the majority of the garden completely levelled (with a few holes where we borrowed soil from what will be an ornamental border).
We took a breather while a short shower passed over, then I leapt straight back into my border to resume weeding. Although the rain had been light enough not to make the soil too wet for working or walking on, the plants I crouched down in gently suffused me with drops of water until I may as well have stayed and worked through the shower anyway. One of the slight drawbacks of weeding deep in the border after rain!
By seven o’clock dusk was beginning to slink over the horizon and I tidied up and headed indoors, happy at having made a good start on my plans.
We woke to stiff limbs and gentle rainfall on Sunday, and I began the day by bringing up all the onions from the potting bench in the greenhouse. These were sorted, the dirt rubbed off and their roots trimmed, before netting them (a slightly strange task:slipping onions into the legs of stockings, albeit clean ones) or attempting to plait them, with a dozen stored in a bag for more immediate use. I applied faint memories of French-braiding – obviously a more useful skill than I would have credited – although I didn’t grade the onions first, so they form rather a motley collection. Nevertheless I was rather impressed with my first-time plait.
By mid-morning the rain had passed and the world brightened up; the soil still not too waterlogged so we leapt back out into the garden. My first task was to redistribute a large pile of sawdust that I’d raked out of the grass earlier in the year from last winter’s chainsawing antics for firewood. This was spread along the base of the native hedge as a mulch to hopefully suppress some of the weeds from returning. With this done, I could get back to tidying up the borders, while King of the Hill removed the adjoining heap of soil, distributing this to the spaces in the vegetable patch, and then began rotivating the earth from the path across the back of the house to about halfway down what will be our lawn again, breaking up the heavy compaction after two years of building work.
What a difference! There is now just one more mountain of soil to be moved to the vegetable patch/front borders, and this lies on space designated for the border, so we can level, rake and seed the area this week and take advantage of the higher temperatures and rainfall to spur on the return of our lawn.
I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening continuing to weed the other borders, moving and adding a few more plants from pots, gently treading a path around the side of the newly ploughed ground to avoid recompacting it. I am so excited as our garden moves ever nearer to completion – in so far as a garden is ever really complete! It will be good to have all the borders in place, though, and find homes for the remaining plants hanging on in pots before winter comes.
On Sunday evening I finished plaiting the rest of the onions, and cleaned and sorted the garlic bulbs, which had been hanging around, into separate paper bags of soft neck and hard neck varieties.
With a few more tasks completed; the list in my mind is slowly becoming less daunting.
*Quite what the neighbours made of us sashaying with tiny steps on our heels across a large patch of bare earth in front of the house, I’m not quite sure.