Saturday, 12 March 2016

Spring garden maintenance

It's been beautifully sunny recently - cold, crisp and sometimes icy in the morning, but lots of gorgeous sunshine during the daylight hours. Both of us love being outdoors, and we've been catching up on the trimming and pruning in preparation for the spring.

Last year we had lots of lovely blackberries from our bramble patch. It's been there a long time and it's been gradually expanding outwards as it hasn't been trimmed back for years. Much of the undergrowth material is now dead, and it's well overdue a tidy up. We chopped it hard, and aimed to take it back by about 3/4 of it's original size. Blackberries don't form on the first year growth in most of the varieties out there, and I think this is a common invasive variety, not a special fruiting cultivar. You need two year old canes for fruit, so I didn't want to take all of the mature growth out and chop it to the ground. I'm hoping that we will still have a few berries from it in 2016, but we won't be freezing as many as we did last year.  

We've also been trimming back the hydrangeas  around the stables. I'm a little worried we may have been a bit too early in the year, as there are still frosts, and lots of people have been telling me that hydrangeas don't like frost. I really don't like hydrangeas - it's something to do with the way that the 'flower' fades but hangs on for ever - but even I have to admit that they look pretty amazing in the summer when they are exploding into color. I've given them a pretty tough pruning - cutting them back to 1/3rd of their original height, as they had clearly not been trimmed for a few years as well. As with the blackberries, that might be a touch too brutal for them to want to flower this year. Fingers crossed!

The pear trees have been sending up some very tall vertical shoots - I think they were all trimmed back exceedingly hard just before we bought the house. We got the grand total of 5 pears off 3 trees last year, so this year, I'm working on making sure that the trees have enough fertilizer and have some woodchipped space around the base to make sure that they don't have competition from the grass around them..

The last plant (other than nettles!)  that we have in crazy amounts is elderflower. It's another super exuberant plant that shoots up and spreads itself happily around the garden. Once it has its roots solidly in the ground, it's a real nightmare to eradicate without masses of digging or horrible chemicals. The flowers make wonderful drinks - cordials, wines and champagne - and the berries also make a good cordial for a warming winter hot drink. I also love elderflower fritters. I didn't get around to doing much with our crop last year, so this year will be our first elderflower food feast. We've cut back a lot all over the garden and property but given how fast elderflower shoots up, I have no doubts that we will have more than enough for the two of us.

As I look around the garden I can still see so much more to do - we've barely scratched the surface of the main garden, let alone headed out towards the fields. Loving every minute, and happy to be outside! How's your spring maintenance going?

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