Everything is aching today, fingers, thumbs, the palms of my hands. Wrists, arms and shoulders, not forgetting my back, legs and even the soles of my feet (although they may be due to my worn out boots)! Nevertheless, when I say everything, I mean everything.
Yesterday was a glorious day. The sun was out and it was warm but best of all, the gale force winds that had plagued us for the previous 48 hours had finally gone. In a nutshell, it was perfect weather for gardening and so with the Mudlets’ safely ensconced in front of a film, I grabbed onion sets, various seeds and my Duke of York seed potatoes and headed outside.
I still had to plant the half bed next to the existing onion bed with yet more onions and this was the first job of the day. Sticking to my resolve to space the onion sets correctly this year (I’ve never been that successful with onions in previous years, possibly due in part to over crowding), I used my twigs and spaced out, then planted, an additional 8 sets. Once finished I couldn’t resist peeking in at the ones I’d planted several weeks ago and was delighted to see nicely swollen bulbs, many of which have lovely green shoots emerging. A couple of the bulbs had put so much effort into throwing out their roots, that they had all but lifted themselves out of the ground and so I carefully back filled with soil around their base, firmed the soil gently and popped the netting back in place, to protect the succulent shoots from the pair of enormous pigeons that are frequenting our garden at the moment.
Last year I had grown some flowers from seed and two Buddleias and three Dianthus had overwintered in the large greenhouse. For the least few weeks they’ve been outside acclimatising and yesterday I finally planted them out into their final positions. One Buddleia and the Dianthus have gone into the vegetable patch flower bed, along with about one third of the packet of wildflower seeds which were also a Mothers Day gift. The second Buddleia has taken up residence in the flower bed opposite the back door and the rest of the wildflower seeds have been scattered between two planters, the old Belfast sink and the equally old cistern the latter two off which, have been used as planters for many years now. All being well, we should be in for a decent showing come the summer.
Parsnips (Gladiator) and beetroot (Sanguina) were next, sown under netting and in a bed neither have been grown in before and in another bed, two varieties of carrot seed (Autum King and Nantes 5) went in, also under netting. The beetroot and carrot will be sown successionally and so only a couple of rows of each were planted today. More will be sown in a couple of weeks.
The main job of the day however, and the one pretty much wholly responsible for my aching muscles, was the planting up of the first of the Duke of York seed potatoes. Last season I had happened upon a packet of two reusable potato growing bags for the princely sum of just £2 for the pack, in our local Wilkinsons store. These had worked pretty well last season and I was pleased to see them back in the shop this year and for the same price. I bought another pack and yesterday set about planting the first of the Duke of Yorks into them.
On the packaging, the blurb says to fill each bag with 15cm of compost, place the tubers on top and then carefully cover them with more compost which is what I did last year but I found that the compost dried out really quickly and so this year I opted for a slightly different approach and decided to add topsoil to the compost which I hope will help with moisture retention. I retrieved two 35 litre bags of topsoil from where they were being stored and carried them back (one at a time I hasten to add) to the greenhouse area which is where the potato bags will be staying for the next few months.
Using a large plastic plant pot as a scoop, I mixed 2 parts compost to 1 part of the top soil, in a large tub and then tipped this into each of the bags in turn, until each bag had the requisite 15cm depth. Oddly enough the scooping action through the heavy, compacted top soil and the effort of mixing the two substrates together by hand, was the most tiring part of all of this and before long my arms, hands and fingers were aching.
Next, three tubers were gently placed on top of the mix in each bag and then more scooping, mixing and filling followed, as each of the four bags was filled until they were about two thirds full. I hope that the thick layer of topsoil/compost will help insulate the tubers against the frost and cold. My hands, arms and back were tired and aching by the time I had tidied away and headed inside and a lingering soak in a hot bath, a few hours later, appears to have had little, if any impact on my aging muscles.
I had hoped to get the first of the King Edward seed potatoes into the ground today but the rain is back and the temperature is less than conducive for a gardener whose movements are currently stiffer than a starched shirt collar. So I’ve opted for a quiet day in front of the wood burner with my knitting, after all, tomorrow is another day and the sun may be shining ……….