A couple of weekends ago I spent about 7 hours across two days, in my vegetable gardening clearing away, pruning, digging up and planting, untangling bean vines from bamboo structures interwoven with garden wire or garden twine. I hoisted, shifted and dragged bags of compost, spent and unused growbags, pots, tubs, house bricks and windblown branches from one place to another. By the end of the weekend I could feel with the usual gentle reprimand from muscles not used to so much activity and treated myself to a long, hot soak in the bath to placate them.
Monday passed by uneventfully with the aches and pains from a job well done but by 10am Tuesday morning, the ache of minor muscle strain was forgotten as a wave of something much more unpleasant shot down my neck and into my shoulder and in a blink of an eye I was unable to move my head or right arm without experiencing extreme discomfort. Painkillers didn’t help at all and though I tried to remain as mobile as possible, forcing myself to ignore the agony even the smallest movement brought, and try to turn my head to stretch the afflicted area, the day was interminable and the night wasn’t much better. I don’t do pain very well and it’s always been a constant source of amazement to me that I managed to bring three children into the world without the aid of an epidural or general anaesthetic. Eleven days on and thankfully, for the most part, there is only a general ache across my shoulders now, although I can still feel a sharp muscular pain in the top of my right arm, making the seemingly simple act of lifting the arm to shoulder height or above, challenging to say the least.
So what caused this very unwelcome event?
You could be forgiven for thinking it was the digging up and planting on of 188 strawberry runners, 134 of which were rooted and planted directly into two spent tomato growbags, as well as a large black planter and a third unused growbag, to over winter. Not all of them have survived, I noticed the other day, thanks in equal measures to birds, no doubt going after worms and bugs, and the slug army which has blighted the growing season more than usual this time around. I’ve managed to save half a dozen which were uprooted by over zealous blackbirds but I think I’ve lost around 10 altogether from the growbags. The other 54 runners were rootless. They had been suspended down the sides of the large half barrel planters, or had formed on large rocks and so hadn’t been able to root into anything, so only the root nodules had formed. Unwilling as always to throw what was to all intents and purposes a perfectly serviceable set of plants, I popped these specimens into a tub of water, in the hope that they would throw out roots. Unwilling to disturb these plantlings as they prepare for winter in their unusual living quarters, I haven’t checked on the root growth but as there is still a healthy mass of green leaves, as opposed to a wilting mess, I think my plan may have worked. I’ll be adding a handful or two of compost to the mix in the next day or so, to help any newly formed roots find something to grab hold off.
But I digress, the strawberries weren’t to blame.
So was it perhaps the weeding of the pathway down to the little greenhouse, or the clearing of the beds either side? Of course the beds were cleared carefully to minimise disturbance to the pumpkin which had now grown to the size of a rugby ball but was still 100% green. We’ve managed to produce two harvestable pumpkins this year (four others rotted on the vine before reaching maturity), both rugby ball sized but one has the shape of a butternut squash which caused some confusion when I brought it in. Its’ skin definitely has the look and texture of pumpkin though, as opposed to the paler, smoother skin of a butternut but I have no explanation as to why it has grown the way it has – pumpkins are peculiar creatures and I have learned over the years that they tend to manifest themselves in whatever shape they see fit. As I type the ‘green’ pumpkin is now almost completely orange and so I will probably be harvesting it in the next day or so, to circumvent the arrival of Jack Frost, a visitor who could quickly turn a carefully nurtured pumpkin into a mushy mess, if he delivers a harsh frost one night.
But the weeds and beds weren’t to blame either.
So perhaps it was the digging of potatoes to use for Sunday lunch or maybe the clearing out of the raised beds? I love digging for potatoes because you never quite know what you are going to find. We’ve had a pleasing number of tubers this year but they haven’t been huge. I think this is because the foliage died back way earlier than I would usually expect it to and before the flowers opened. Whatever the reason though, I had thought that this meant that there would be hardly any useable potatoes this year but we’ve had a few and there are still mounds needing to be explored. By far the most upsetting part of my garden this year has been the appearance of Honey Fungus in one of the raised beds containing what looked to be a healthy crop of large carrots. Unfortunately, the presence of the Honey Fungus saw me pulling up the whole crop and disposing of both it and the fungus in double wrapped bags for the general waste. The entire contents of that bed will also have to be bagged up and disposed of but it is so annoying to lose an entire bed of produce but there was nothing I could do about it. The other raised beds seem unaffected at the moment and Mud has said we will put some heavy duty weed suppressant material down before we refill that bed and I think it will probably make sense to empty, line and then refill the other beds at the same time.
So the potatoes and raised beds weren’t to blame either.
That just leaves the very back section of the garden then, where the half barrels are situated with their strawberry crops, their sides adorned with the cascade of runners hell bent on (and succeeding in) colonising the hardcore based ground between the trees. The numerous runners which had successfully rooted into the fine layer of mud and soil which has settled over the hardcore over the years, were the hardest to retrieve as the point of my trowel impacted rocks and stone. Weeds, including the ubiquitous Ground Elder and Mares Tail, added extra difficulty but eventually the ground and two beds were cleared of all but a few bean plants (in the beds) and a few strawberry runners left for the wildlife to use come the spring. Surely this was the cause of my injury.
Well dear reader, none of these things caused my problems, although, to be fair, it is possible that they aren’t entirely blameless. No, I walked away from my garden at the end of Sunday thoroughly satisfied with a job well done, with, as I mentioned at the start, just a few aches and pains caused by the unfamiliar and prolonged activity……
…… and what caused my injury? What stupidly heavy item was I attempting to lift, move or use when my neck seized up so dramatically …….. a teaspoon!!!!! Yes, a teaspoon! I was about to make a coffee and reached out to pick up a teaspoon and that dear readers, was that!