Sunday, 16 July 2017

We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land

Gosh, it's hot!

I've been slaving away in my back garden. I've picked at it since returning from holiday on 3rd July, doing some useful stuff and gradually clearing the freshly-grown weeds. But in the last few days I've really got stuck in. Once the weeds have been plucked up, and the resurgent brambles given the old heave-ho, only lush new grass will remain, which I shall then mow to a bowling green finish. Well, sort of. After that, there will be a certain amount of hedge and shrub trimming, and lawn edging, and further mowing. And I need to train the fronds of a clematis I found buried by vegetation when I first began. It's survived all the upheaval, and deserves TLC.

Before I went away to the West Country in late March, I was working against the clock to clear the turned-over former flower/shrub beds of unwanted roots and other debris on either side of my fairly-large back garden. Turned over with a machine. I didn't personally wield the cultivator: my obliging next-door neighbour Kevin did. He had two goes at it. Here he is with the first machine, an antique device, borrowed from one of his friends. It was made by Villiers (didn't they make tanks in the First World War?). It wasn't much good. It kept stopping. (No doubt the WWI tanks did that too)


Back from holiday, I hired a modern machine, and Kevin (who really likes trying his hand at powered devices like this) let it rip on either side of my back garden, after first winching-up some big roots that might impede its spectacular progress.


The result was very gratifying. You can see how pleased I was. While Kevin wielded, I raked off the worst of the churned-up soil clumps, weeds, and roots. The next task was to clear that away, and carry out a finer purge of unwanted vegetation with a rake:


Hot work, though! This was me, looking particularly frazzled:


In the course of this part of the work, I discovered that Mum and Dad had had a mania for fringing the edge of their flower and shrub beds with pebbles. I collected them into quite a pile:


Where did these come from? They looked like beach pebbles. I thought it was now illegal to plunder beaches for pebbles. Perhaps they were vintage pebbles from way back. Indeed, what if they originally came from the Cold Knap at Barry, and were a souvenir of Mum and Dad's first years of married life, and (from 1952) my own childhood? Well, in that case, they would have to be carefully retained and put to some good decorative use. Perhaps I could make some water feature...?

This was the little clematis, now (in July) vigorous and ablaze with deep purple flowers, but then (in early June) looking as if it might not make it:


Having raked the bare soil smooth and level, it then needed to be seeded with a decent lawn grass mix. I took advice on that, and divided the bare soil up into one-metre squares with canes, and scattered the good seed on the land with the mindset of a born peasant. As an encore, I gave the grass seed a light raking-in and a generous watering, with the mindset of the lawn-superintendent for the Centre Court at the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon. I soon got the hang of it.


There were in the end fifty-three of those metre squares to seed. It was quite a big job. For a lady in her mid-sixties anyway! Still, I loaded up the caravan feeling that I'd worked hard and done well, and could go away on holiday with my gardening up to date. And the back garden did look reasonably neat and tidy:


I wondered whether the grass seed would 'take'. Four weeks later, I came back to find the left and right sides of my back garden full of lush long grass - and thriving weeds! More so on the shadier 'chalet' side of my garden than the sunnier 'greenhouse' side, but still an impressive demonstration that nature - given mild Sussex weather, rain and sunshine - will take its chance and fill every space with growth, both wanted and unwanted. The lawn in between - old grass and lots of moss - had by comparison hardly grown at all.

Well, there was much else to get on with before attending to the new jungle. But after a week and a half, I set to. This was the 'chalet' side, after pulling out the weeds and other unwanted plants that had sprung up amid the new grass:


That'll take some mowing! But it is at least dense, luxuriant grass. So a great result. Before breaking off to type this post, I had almost finished similarly de-weeding the other side of the back garden. Then it would be time to try a first mow. However, it's already 7.15pm, so I may leave the mowing until tomorrow morning. (Make that 'definitely will leave'!) But I'm really looking forward to seeing what the grass will look like after that first post-holiday cut.

If you have detected a startling new gardening streak in me, you'd be right. I've taken charge; I'm taking it all seriously. I don't think I'll get intensely interested in gardening, not like some women do, but I'll definitely want to get the gardens front and rear into a jolly good state - an easy-to-maintain state! - and keep them up to that standard.

The girls have filled the empty flower pots in my porch and front garden as my 65th birthday present. They have made a lovely job of it. Here's a few miscellaneous shots of the 'Ground Force' team about to begin, then enjoying the light lunch I gave them, and then some shots of what they achieved:


Thanks, girls!

There was more to my 65th birthday than this - but that's for another post.

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