Back to Nature Day.
Posted by Exile on May 20, 2007
A brilliant sunshiny Sunday again. After the rain and grey skies of the past few days it makes a pleasant change. I went out onto the terrace at the front of our living room and surveyed the planked deck that stretches out over the eastern side of our garden. My good lady wife, in her infinite wisdom has decided to plant clematis along the wall which seperates us from the neighbours. The wall isn’t long, about ten feet, and then the hedge takes over. The area it encloses between the house and the rest of the garden provides us with a sun trap to be reckoned with. Unfortunately the small amount of earth in front of the wall isn’t really earth at all. It’s a pile of clay. The house is built on clay.
I explained to my darling wife that plants don’t do very well in clay. Roots can’t penetrate it and water doesn’t drain through it very well. The clematis is doomed. I know this, not because I am a gardener, but my father was. A great gardener. Just show him a patch of earth and he would be digging it up and planting stuff before you could say “horticulture”. As a kid, I was occasionally drafted to helping out in the garden. Which was huge. And when the garden round the house that I grew up in got to be too small for my father’s ambitions, he rented a patch of ground nearby and dug that up and planted all kinds of vegetables. Actually, he managed to feed a whole family of seven from his garden. My mother never had to buy vegetables. All year. There was always fresh home grown stuff to be had.
Now back to the clematis. My wife was upset at the thought of these plants not thriving. You have to plant them in something more earthy than clay, I told her. Replace the clay with loam, or mulch or something like that. “Do we have that?”, she asked. Thinking hard, I answered positively. “Yes, behind the shed is an old composter. There has to be compost in it now. I haven’t visited it in the past five years.” I can’t actually get to it now, the hedge is so overgrown with ivy and brambles. The birds love it. “Then get it”, she said, leaving me to ponder the amount of activity and sweat required to get to the old composter.
So, armed to the teeth with a hand operated hedge clipper and gardening shears I went to work. It took me about fifteen minutes of hacking and swearing to get through the brambles and ivy and find the composter. It was half full of the finest composted earth one could imagine. Rich smelling earth, worms in the hundreds and a lovely black colour that all virgin earth has.
So, to work. First thing to do, remove the clay deposit from the terrace. Heavy stuff is clay. Sticky and sludgy and not really easily moved. I toiled at it for all I was worth and finally I had a trench dug along the wall. Removing the clay from the scene in a wheelbarrow, I was now prepared for the transfer of soil from the composter to the trench.
My wheelbarrow can’t go behind the shed to the composter. There isn’t room. So I had to use a box to move the soil from the composter to the terrace and then fill the trench as best I could. This took countless trips backward and forward, and compost actually is heavy. After a solid hours work in the hot sunshine I was done in. But I was finished too, so all had not been in vain. Sweating and sunburned, I annonced to the good lady that she could plant her clematis now.
Not possessing a trowel, she made me dig suitable holes for the young plants with my bare hands. Easy really, in the new soil. Then we planted the four little plants in the respective holes and watered them in with rainwater from the barrel beside the shed. Having done the best we could, it is now up to nature to let them grow or wither. As I said, I am no gardener.
All I have left to do now, is mow the lawn. Again. Which will probably be childsplay compared to the amount of work necessary to plant four clematis! Still, the wife is happy and looking forward to seeing the little plants stretch up the wall. I hope they will be successful. I’m sort of attached to them now.