The courtyard crewcut

Started the day by emptying a massive bag of wood ash on the soft fruit trees. Good thing the wind wasn’t blowing – just emptying the bag felt like I had inhaled about twenty cigarettes.

With spring in the air and perfect cool but sunny weather there was no excuse for being indoors. Our I burst and set about on my huge list of tasks. And first up was attacking the large mulberry tree in the courtyard. I came inside to look and see when Nicolas pruned it last year – end of February and clicked on the picture to see how radically it was to be pruned. And yep, crewcut just about covers it. But I was nervous to start; so in a perfect displacement activity I did the vines in the courtyard first.

First task was to remove all the blue string that has been hanging in a rather ungainly fashion for years. And cut back all the vines to their first bud after the craggy thick trunks. It was rather fun – especially as it afforded a lovely view of the hills across the way.  Blue is definitely the couleur du jour here. Blue string, blue water butts, blue overalls for the workers. I felt like a rank amateur in my sensible grey and black. But at least I didn’t blend in with the sky.

Here is the mulberry mid haircut. And now it looks rather sorry for itself completely bald.   As long as there isn’t a freezing cold snap we may even get some of the usual overwhelming canopy in no time.

Next up I planted yet more bulbs: this time the peacock orchids in the bed under the wisteria.   Tis a mightily crowded bulby place. But the nasturtiums just didnÃ’t cover the whole thing in the summer. Oh, which reminds me. Must sow the nasturtium seeds this weekend. And the cabbage and the corn.

Then after lunch there was no putting off the sorry state of the lower potager. It seems to have half the mountain of silt covering it. And there are deep runnels all over the place. So I raked and dug lightly and generally slapped it back into the right spot. The little terrace in the middle of the bed isn’t as hospital bed sheet cornered as I would have liked, but at least it almost looks like it did before.

And then in the blazing sunshine I planted all the land cress that had happily wintered in the potting shed. I had managed to plant four of the little beasts before I remembered my weed proof mantra.  So up I trudged and brought down a length of fabric (pre-cut with holes). Here’s hoping it will cut down the weed work later.

Gingerly nursing the lower back I dug over the rest of the quadrants that had been washed away. Took ages – at least two hours of Sense and Sensibility. But it looks like a vegetable garden again. Tomorrow I need to attack the other quadrants.

And to finish the day I pruned the blackberries as much as I dared. I recall last year Nicolas hacking them off right to the ground. But I’m nervous of such slaughter. So I just pruned back mightily and will decide how erroneous my nervousness will be later. And when I later thought about it; I have realised that the monstrous growth this thornless blackberry puts on each season may be the solution to the unsightly septic tank issue just nearby. If I can train the long branches in the direction of the bank holding up the tank it may prove very useful. Naturally only very few of them are facing in the southerly direction, but it’s a good project to work on this season.

Cut back the verbena bonariensis and the grasses in the little flower bed in front of the lawn.

Six pm and it’s still sunny, but chill. Time to bring in the little leeks I have unearthed and some kale and wrap my secateur blistered hands around a cooling ale.