I have realised that winter gardening is a race against time.
I have been trying to do at least one garden job every day. I go into the garden to top up bird feeders, put rubbish or recycling in the bins, collect the post from the box at the gate – I’m already out there so I might as well stay there a little longer and do something useful. I love gardening and would much rather garden than do anything else. However, I have this nasty little puritan voice in my head that tells me that as I enjoy it it isn’t real work and therefore should be left until all my other chores are done. As anyone who has a house knows, housework is never-ending so I sometimes leave the garden for weeks without doing anything in it at all! If I do look around me on my walk to and from the post-box, bin etc it is only to see the mess and feel miserable. What stupid behaviour! Hence the decision to do a little bit of gardening work every day.
I usually go out to see to the feeders during the afternoon so that is the time I have decided should also be gardening time too. I go out in all weathers so rain, wind and cold shouldn’t be an excuse not to garden. The days are lengthening now and as I put my coat and boots on I think that there will be plenty of time to do all that I need to do. All goes well at first. As soon as I get out in the fresh air I begin to feel more relaxed. I look about and decide what needs doing – some jobs, of course, cannot be done in bad or cold weather – but plenty can be done, especially tidying up – sweeping paths, clearing brushwood, some pruning/cutting back etc. However, as I work I realise that maybe I won’t be able to do all that I wanted to. The rain is getting heavier, I am getting too wet/cold/tired, it is getting too dark to see! Also, the cold makes my eyes water and when I stoop to look at the ground my vision is so blurred with tears I can’t see properly. My nose runs all the time so I have to keep stopping to blow it. Despite gloves and thick socks my fingers and toes have become painful with the cold. Can I manage to finish the task I am doing before having to give in and escape indoors? I think of the ease with which we garden during the rest of the year and never appreciate it at the time.
One of my flowerbeds is thickly covered with speedwell. I have never noticed it on that bed before so seeds may have been in the compost of some plants I put in last year. I spent some time today trying to remove it which was very difficult because it was growing amongst viola and heartsease seedlings. I find it interesting to observe that many weeds grow next to plants with similar leaves. The weeds are not noticed until they are quite established and starting to swamp their neighbours. These speedwell plants were so close together and had also wrapped themselves so well around the poor violas that I was finding it almost impossible to remove them. I then remembered that R uses an old kitchen fork to thin out and prick out seedlings so I fetched that from the greenhouse and found I could remove the weeds without damaging the seedlings too much. I spent the rest of the time outside tidying the edges to the paths – trimming long grass away and sweeping soil back on to the flowerbeds. Moles have pushed hills up along the side of the paths too so I stamped those down. Moles tunnel in search of worms. Worms are more plentiful where there is damp soil and soil is damper next to paths because of the water run-off. Moles like to tunnel near the ditches and ponds in the garden for the same reason. There are more worms in flowerbeds because of the mulch and compost we put there; the moles are in the flowerbeds after the worms and disturb all my plants. The large crabapple tree at the front of the house has had so much mole disturbance under it that the ground is pitted and lumpy. The moles have pushed up many of our snowdrops so I have to replant them regularly. Moles are off in search of mates at the moment so the garden is covered with hills. Oh dear!