Moving Mountains

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.

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15 thoughts on “Moving Mountains

  1. What makes you think that your garden will ever be “complete”??? Gardens are always changing.
    I have to say, I’m dead impressed with the amount of hard graft you (two) have put into that garden already. You really DESERVE to have a nice-looking and productive plot!

    • Indeed, gardens never stop evolving, but it will be good to have most of the structure in place.
      Thanks, it has been hard work, but so rewarding watching it come together – and I’m already excited about next year!

    • 🙂 It doesn’t feel like it sometimes! After almost three years of hard work, I’m definitely ready for a break… just a bit more to do in the garden and the house…

  2. Hi Sara, that is an impressively productive weekend! I can imagine how satisfying it must be to finally reach the point of being able to sow your grass areas. I’m impressed with the onion plaits, I think I might have to grow onions just for that! The first photo is really beautiful. Can’t believe how much progress you have made on your garden this year, it is almost unrecognisable.

    • Thanks Janet, it really is satisfying – we didn’t do too badly considering we’re both recovering from lingering fluey things. I was quite pleased with the onion plaits – just as long as they don’t break when they’re hanging! And we need to find somewhere to hang them first …

        • Yes, we obviously missed something when designing the house. At the moment the cloakroom is just a cool room with plastered non-painted walls and slate floors, perfect for storage. But as soon as it’s plumbed in, we’ll have to rethink.

  3. I am exhausted just reading what you achieved this weekend! I’m also impressed with the onion plaits, mine are nowhere near as tidy as that. Looks like you have a great crop to take you through the winter. Christina

    • Thanks Christina. I’m hoping that our onions and garlic last us well into the spring, though suspect some of the onions won’t keep so long. Looking forward to some onion soups though!

    • Thanks Dave. Not sure I’ve ever been called a dynamo before :-). Funnily enough, I also did some quick reading up on how to tie onions for showing the week we harvested them last month, and we entered three into our village show, but sadly they didn’t place. Looked close though. I like the idea of a medal still 🙂

      • You was robbed. (The garlic look great also). I get my Jim to tie onions and then I present them to the Master of the Priory (as my own work) like some kind of sacrificial offering. They seem to be well received.

  4. We were trampling, raking, leveling with you! Working on our new orchard and getting the soil ready to sow grass. Opted for sowing as it is a rather large patch. It all looks so lovely. Your onions and garlic are just beautiful!

    • Ah, great minds! New orchard sounds lovely (if only we had space for an orchard, sigh). Are you adding bulbs to it too? We are turfing the front as it is quite small, and we found a good price, but sowing the back which is a bit bigger – and less public. Here’s to some good grass-growing weather in the coming weeks!

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