Another deep Atlantic low is expected to arrive in the western channel on Monday morning.
A stormy day, turbulent sea, and just the two of us wandering across wave scoured shingle, with little evidence of the detritus we found yesterday. Swept out to sea again, it’ll be deposited elsewhere with the incoming tide.
There’s plenty of seaweed scattered across the shingle, from strand line to low water, and mostly Toothed Wrack (Fucus serratus) and Fucus ceranoides, seaweeds of the upper, middle and lower shores. Hold fasts no longer holding fast, holding onto nothing; stranded, like the solitary shoe we encounter.
A metal detectorist appears, but he stays above the strand line sweeping the shingle.
He’s still listening, still searching, when we leave, carrying bags of seaweed. Passing by we say hello, wonder if he’s found anything.
‘No, just bits of foil, aluminium gives a good signal. It gives a good signal, does aluminium’.
‘Good luck’. But he’s wrapped his headphones round his ears again, returned to his searching.
We’ve collected enough seaweed to cover one of the potato beds.
With the wind easing briefly over the weekend, along the South coast, we were out collecting seaweed to mulch the fruit bushes, apple trees, and asparagus beds. We’ve also covered the potato beds so that the seaweed will rot over winter ready for planting in the spring, & the garlic beds have been covered ready for planting this week, rain permitting.
Strong south westerly and southerly winds have thrown up lots of Maidens hair seaweed; Ectocarpus siliculosus is found from the middle shore down to shallow water. This is the first time we’ve seen it dominating the shoreline, with little evidence of any other species. Potentially, the heavier & larger seaweeds are still being held in the sea by the energy of the waves, while the lighter seaweeds like Maiden’s hair have been dropped on the beaches during lulls in the winds currently lashing the South coast. It’s possibly also evidence of a large community of the seaweed in the Bognor to Brighton littoral zone.
Non-gardeners treat late autumn & winter as ‘dead’ garden time, while growers see it as possibly the busiest part of the gardening calendar. We’ve been clearing old crops, trying not to over-tidy our perennials so insects have somewhere to overwinter & birds can still harvest seeds, whilst mulching beds in preparation for spring planting.
It’s also a time to strengthen social ties; we were recently over to see Phil & Anne, to collect horse manure from their stables. We could buy it by the wheelbarrow load via our allotment society, which we do when we run out, but we don’t mind shovelling horse manure, playing with Mutley, their Collie, and catching up with Phil and Anne. We gain from our connection with people we’ve developed a relationship with despite, or possibly because, our outlooks can often be quite different.
The allotment society manages the woodlands on the allotment perimeter and we’ve been using some of the felled timber to edge our raised beds where the old scaffolding boards have rotted. Years ago, scaffolding boards were free, not any longer. Scaffolders are cutting up older boards to reuse or selling them to recycling yards that then re-sell them at eye-watering prices. Aesthetically, the uneven nature of the felled timber softens the outlines of our beds; not so regimented, but then, we were never ones for plumb lines and straight edges, with meandering lines across our plot changing over time & use.
Local arboriculturalists provide the allotment site with a regular supply of wood chip, in season. It’s getting low at the moment but dig into the remnants and there’s a good load of older rotted wood chip turned compost we’ve begun using to mulch the potato and garlic beds. A top layer of this rotted woody compost over seaweed, green waste from last year’s crops, and manure on the potato beds should rejuvenate them after intense cultivation & make for wonderfully rich soil.
The principal Art of a Gardner, consists in pruning: for which observe these rules:
Learn first to know the bearing buds from the leafe buds, & those which will be fruite-buds next yeare; sparing all the fruite buds on standard Apples, Peares & wall-fruite with discretion. (John Evelyn, Directions for the Gardiner: 106).
I am sadly lacking in that discretion about pruning implied by John Evelyn. However, I can learn first to know a fruit bud from a leaf bud by asking advice from more experienced gardeners, as, until now I would be loath to count myself a Gardner, in Evelyn’s sense.
February is cold, but there’s plenty to do: repairs, refelting the shed roof, cleaning tools, preparing beds for spring planting, tidying, getting things in order, feeding the birds. Pruning has never seemed to be one of them, as I’ve not had the confidence to tackle it properly. But this is when we should be pruning our fruit trees. I’ve always meant to do it – through the winter months to February, March at a stretch. Instead, we’ve taken the worst course, hacked branches off when they’ve got in the way or were broken, damaging our smaller apple tree through neglect born of ignorance of its needs, of how we might encourage healthier growth. Continue reading