MAR/APR 2015 MUSINGSBack to the grapevine

MAR/APR 2015 MUSINGS  by Maz

Gardening Volunteer at Tatton Park Kitchen Garden, Knutsford, Cheshire

“March many weathers.” However, the first Tuesday was a lovely sunny day, but with a biting wind. The hazel and alder catkins were dancing merrily to the accompanying tune of a Pied Wagtail sat on top of one of the walls. March is known as Mulch Month, and most of the Team were in the American Garden, spreading a thick mulch of leaf mould to nourish the ground. In the soft fruit area, March is also known as Hoe Month, and the rest of the Team hoed the large bed of red and white currant bushes to thwart the weeds from making a smothering green carpet. The Robins also sang as they discovered tasty morsels where the hoes had disturbed the ground.

Another lovely sunny day Tuesday saw the main Team busy cutting back the holly hedges behind The Barn and along the track to the Wood Yard. Because the Tomato House where I usually work is still under renovation, three of us spent a busy day sowing seeds in the Mist House, formerly the Prop House. The central bench has misting units, which cooled the glasshouse down to make working there pleasant as it is in full sun, although we did get a little damp at times. The Gaffer’s ancient shed outside the Garden Office blew down in the gales; the space would make a nice sunny sitting out area for the glasshouse team if there is a redevelopment of the space.

St Patrick’s Day saw the greening of the buds on the trees and daffodils opening. In the lean-to glasshouse two of us prepared pots and trays, and two more ‘assistants’ sowed pinches of four different kinds of lettuce, and then 270 broad beans before we ran out of compost. In the Mist House tomato seeds were sown in ‘pans’.

Flower seeds were also sown, and dahlias and onions were pricked out. In the Kitchen Garden trenches were dug, lined with leaf mould and potatoes planted.

The solar eclipse heralded a change to stormy weather, with high winds, hail and broken glass from flying debris hitting the glasshouses. During a lull when the sun came out, paths were swept and wigwams for sweet peas were installed.

Easter weekend was foggy at first but then the afternoons were very sunny and the Gardens were packed with families hunting the Easter Bunny. Sowing seeds and pricking out seedlings continues apace: more onions, lupins, sweet peas, sunflowers, rudbeckias for the American Garden, foxgloves, morning glory, etc. The hedgerows in the lanes on the way to and from work are full of colour: primroses, celandines vying with dandelions, greening willow and ‘bridal veil’. Saw the first of the Swifts. The gloriously sunny days we have experienced in April are a great bonus, though it gets over-warm in the glasshouses and we are glad of the mist units to cool us down.

An amazing thing happened whilst we were sitting in our own garden: a baby blackbird flew onto my shoulder and stayed there until its mother came with food. The mother has been ‘resident’ in ours and the neighbouring garden since 2009. I finally persuaded her to take a sultana out of my (‘beak-like’) finger and thumb.

As part of the ongoing restoration of The Old Nursery, the seed sowing, pricking out and potting on production of vegetable plants for the Walled Kitchen Garden adjacent has been relocated to the Old Nursery from the main glasshouses in The Orchard area. This will save ‘veg miles’ moving seedlings some distance from there to the holding area and is how it would have been done in the heyday of the Walled Kitchen Garden.

April ended with a few showers, just enough to ‘keep its hand in’ so to speak.

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