Sunday, 21 February 2010

Green shoots

It is so frustrating waiting for spring! The seed order has arrived, the Charlotte potatoes are lined up chitting quietly on the dining room windowsill, but it's still too soon to get anything done.

One thing we were able to do (and 'we' in this case is mostly Granny in the Annexe, assisted by Brian and I) is to plant the bare-rooted fruit trees we had bought. In all we had a damson (Merryweather, pictured), two plums (Victoria and Opal), two pears (Concorde and Winter Nelis), three cooking apples (Grenadier, Lord Derby and Lane's Prince Albert) and four eating apples (Beauty of Bath, Claygate Pearmain, Ellison's Orange and Sunset).

These varieties were selected on a trip to Dolau Hirion Fruit Trees in Capel Isaac where we explained our requirements, topography and rainfall and the apple expert recommended varieties. Most are maidens, so it will be a while before we are able to enjoy the fruits of our labours, but it did feel like a very satisfying achievement to finish planting them yesterday.

I have to admit I was feeling disillusioned with the garden. Three years solid now of unremitting rain had dampened my enthusiasm for it somewhat. Things just refused to grow - like beans, for example - and the slugs were the only ones enjoying the conditions.

But it hasn't been a total disaster. Some things did well, like the courgettes (eventually) and there's still food to be found in the garden. I've just picked the last of the sprouts for tonight's dinner and there are a couple of small January King and Savoy cabbages still to eat.

My new lawn has done well too and is firmly established; at least a wet year was a good thing for a freshly sown patch of turf.

The optimist in me believes that it has to be better this year, which is why I'm champing at the bit. GintheA and I cleared one of the raised beds ready for the Charlottes, but it's the only bed dry enough for any kind of work. Everything else is still too soggy and today covered in a fine layer of cold white stuff.

In the meantime all I can do is plan things, write lists of jobs for Brian to do (fix the polytunnel is high on the list - the door has blown in and it looks like Steptoe's Yard in there). Then, and only then, can I start planting seeds. I just have one final week to complete at work (I've been covering for maternity leave and the new mum is back) and then it will be March and I can make a start on things.


  1. I love the idea of 'maiden fruit trees'. Are they a bit like maiden aunts, I wonder - do they perhaps knit, or do a bit of crochet whilst waiting for a handsome damson or pear tree to hove into view? I love the idea or all those old native strains - they have such gorgeous names, don't they.

    I'm in two minds about spring. Totally fed up with this cold weather, but I know the end of the frost will mean digging, planting and getting to grips with all the bindweed and marestail that I know is lurking just below the surface to make my life a misery.

    Thank you for your potato advice and encouragement, by the way. I'll definitely try some Charlottes this year - I know they have a lovely flavour. Did quite well with Pink Fir Apples last year, but they're so darned knobbly, it's always a bit of a chore getting them from garden to pan.

  2. Gardeners are such optimists - it will always be better next season - and it is always worth trying to grow something 'just one more time, in case.'

    Plums and damsons grow well for us here at c. 850 feet (sorry can't remember the metric equivalent) - we may be at the extreme of the optimum height for apples - which do OK but not brilliantly. Our orchard is only 5 years old and maybe I am being umpatient.

    It will be spring soon enough and there won't be enough hours in the day for all the gardening that needs to be done.

  3. Here in coastal Georgia we've also suffered from too much rain. This is a subtropical area so we always get rain, but last year was a disaster and many of our plants just rotted. Then we had 13 days of hard freezes, and that's just unheard of here. But the sun is shining today and things look likes they're starting to bud, so we're hopeful.

  4. Love the sound of your fruit trees. I am planning to have a small orchard when we move (so have told Keith it's no good him saying he just wants a courtyard garden!) Was it Paul wotsisname at Capel Dewi? Guess it must be. Beware the Damson. I was given a Maiden one in a pot, and I thought it would be nice outside the kitchen window. Three (yup, it HAD been in the pot a couple of years though) years on and it is approaching the attic bathroom window . . .

  5. Very envious of your fruit trees, would love some here but we're probably too exposed, plus this winter we have had weeks of freezing weather, very unusual.
    Btw - we had the pear pudding, absolutely scrumptious! Thanks again for the recipe.

  6. We do ok with fruit trees too although the new ones are hardly big enough to do much yet. Apples are fine but pears sulk - too high and too cold I think.
    I'm longing to get on with it too. Roll on spring.

  7. Hello Mags. Read this earlier but couldn't comment as I was getting the children's breakfast (hah!). Lovely post and has made the sap rise in terms of thinking about the garden. Can't wait for it to warm a bit - a lot - and get out there. Seeds waiting and things to do. Don't get despondent about last year; this year will be different! xx

  8. I'm feeling just the same, have just blogged as much in fact.

    We planted eight maidens - five apples and three pears - on valentine's day, sourced locally and heritage or local varieties as far as possible. The only problems with the maidens is that you have to chop a third off once planted. And when they're just a single stick, that feels very brave indeed!

    I've got Charlottes chitting too, I only grew that variety last year but am trying Swift and International Kidney too this year, let's see what the slugs make of them!

  9. Well done you for trying - our 'garden' remains a blasted. bare wilderness.

  10. You've made me feel more optinistic about the large patch of mud we own. In fact I trotted out to take a closer look at the roses and I do beleive they are budding...eternally optimisitc that we'll get some drier weather too!


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