Sunday, 14 March 2010

New apple tree

Yesterday I picked up my Other Half from the railway station after his night shift and instead of letting him go home to bed, forced him to wander round the garden centre with me. I needed a new apple tree - one which would act as a second pollinator for my Blenheim Orange tree, which suddenly burst into bloom last year after 5 years of complete inactivity. Unfortunately there was no fruit, as I had forgotten it needed two compatible pollinators and one of the trees I originally chose had died. So on Friday night I wrote out a list of all the suitable trees and took it with me to the garden centre.

When I started growing fruit and vegetables, it was a cinderella hobby and the fruit section at the garden centre was small. Ten years on and the section is huge. What surprised me most was the vast number of M106 rootstocks (too big for my plot), so people are certainly buying lots of apple trees now. There was also a lot more choice than there used to be. Still, I needed an M27 rootstock for my tree so I hunted round until I found the section - not as much choice but happily there was one Spartan tree left. It's a late dessert apple (October-November), which is good for me as I have so much summer fruit. So here it is, at the end of the apple row on my plot. I hope it flowers this year.
After that, I moved on to the herb beds which I started clearing last week. I leave all the summer growth and seeds on the plants over winter, some for the birds and some simply to protect the plants in case of a cold winter - the extra vegetation protects the crown. Since they were buried in snow for several weeks this winter, this was A Very Good Idea. Most have survived well - lavender and sage in the foreground, marjoram and a different sage in the middle bed. I was most concerned about the rosemary; as I started cutting it back I realised it had died back a lot, but eventually found there was still live wood near the bottom, so maybe there's hope. The fennel and sorrel are fine too. I have planted sorrel in the front bed (I take seed from my sorrel plant each year) for an early salad leaf. The light coloured compost you can see is a mixture of wood cat litter and cat wee (well composted), which is my cat's contribution to my garden. It's a good soil conditioner (ammonia) and builds up humus in my soil. By the way, the two herb beds are made out of old British Rail folding wooden things which I think were used when digging holes. Now they use metal, so someone donated a number of them to the allotments. Very handy, I also have two which I use to keep my manure piles contained.

What surprised me today was how dry the soil is - we have had a lot less rain this winter than normal and one of the local reservoirs is quite low. The soil should warm up more quickly as a result of this, but the temperature forecast for spring is colder than average. Normally I have the potatoes in now, but they are at least 3 weeks away from planting. I am way behind in the planting schedule - that does make time for more structural and preparation work, so it's not a bad thing.
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