Thanks to the heroic endevours of our new land intern Ed Bailey we have finally got around to preparing the unlikely looking bit of land at the top of our SW-facing meadow, which will become a small orchard next year...Inspired by planting a wall of fruit at Abbey Gardens in London a few weeks ago, and by thinking 'If we'd planted an orchard when we first moved in here we'd be eating apples by now!'
The site will be a challenging one -200m above sea level, and rather exposed if sunny, so I'll also plant a surrounding hedge inside the dear-dissuading stock fencing - probably hawthorn as it's so twiggy and in leaf so early too. Much as I fancy shaped espaliers and fans they'd be decidely out of place up here and - more seriously - I know that with the emphasis on labour-saving we are best to choose the standard tree shape, below which -in the future - animals can graze and people can picnic.
Being organic, our ground prep (the meadow was cropped a few months ago by some hungry Exmoor ponies and is usually maintained for wildflower interest) consists of rotivating (now) the hedge-line and a 1m square for each tree (they should eventually reach circa 3m in height each) about 3.5m apart. We'll then spread a thick layer of well-rotted cow manure on this newly exposed soil, then cover with a light-excluding mulch of carpet or plastic, and let nature do the rest for the next 8 or 9 months. Then next winter I'll have a fork about under the mulch and we should see a decent if thin top soil level to plant into in Feb / March time.
I now have the delectable task of trawling through books and websites to choose the toughest apples I can find - I've decided to create the United Appledom of Grizedale by choosing 6 varieties each from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland - and by all accounts for the rare ones you need to get your orders for next winter in now. I'll be looking for early ripening varieties, and ones from the wetter parts of those countries. Any variety recommendations welcome!
Last weekend saw us turn some long-standing piles of brash and rotting timber into useful bark chips for informal paths in various spots around the land, at last opening up George's Dell properly - this is an atmospheric woodland space around a natural stream, initially created by former gardener George Watson and home last year to an amazing show of Himalayan blue poppies.
And Adam got to use a big orange machine all weekend, which he secretly enjoyed.
The last few days up here have been nice enough to get out into the garden for a few hours each day, almost the first time since the end of November, which if you remember was the monsoon-like predeccessor to the Siberian winter that followed. Our Kitchen Garden here is undergoing a few changes as we grow more and more vegetables in quantity in the Paddies down the track, and as we (veryreluctantly) give up on the asparagus that we planted in 2006, the first thing in the Kitchen Garden to go in. It's never thrived and - as a coastal plant - you can guess why up here in the wilds. So that bed will end up as Asian vegetables this year. Some ongoing drainage issues in the fruit bed have caused us to discard our summer raspberries in favour of just keeping the autumn ones, and the eBay chicken wire we used on the fruit cage has to be replaced asap before the birds get in there and eat the fruit buds.....
Worried about whether the 2 borrowed ponies were going hungry under the 18" of snow, here's Adam throwing them the tops of the Christmas brussel sprouts.
.....but inside Lawson Park it's spring, thanks to that new-fangled underfloor heating.
The GA Xmas Party on Friday went with a swing, we welcomed interns Ellie, Matt and Sophie back and combined the celebrations with Adam Sutherland's 51st birthday!
Thanks to Lisa & Sally we have two Exmoor ponies on our
wildflower meadow, eating up all the old grass and flower stems
over the coming weeks.
Our meadow is too steep and wet to cut with machinery, and though we had a fair bit of fun strimming it en masse a few years ago, we managed to cut just about a third in 4 days! You soon realise that the 'wildest' bit of your garden could easily be the most high-maintenance if you do as the books say - which is generally one or two cuts a year with all the debris removed to minimise soil improvement (the enemy of the wildflower).
The Cumbria Wildlife Trust gave us some management advice recently which stated that occasional grazing could be an acceptable way of keeping the grasses in check, and as ours is a late-flowering meadow this is the time of year to do it.
Just got to remember to poop scoop regularly!
We are still eating every day from the garden - and picking cut flowers including May-sown sweet peas, scabious and rudbeckia 'Marmalade'. Vegetables still going strong include runner beans, mangetout, broccoli, courgettes (outside and in tunnel) and tomatoes.
...but spurred on by the patient NGS we announce next year's
National Garden Scheme Open Day here at Lawson
Park - It's Sunday July 18th 2010,
Get it in your diary now....
Much to modest to blog it himself, here is Adam with Lawson Park's first prize winner - a red cabbage grown here in the Paddies, that trounced the competition at the recent Coniston and Torver Garden Club Annual Show.
Other successes included green chillis, herbs, runner beans and a cucumber. Sadly our interns' entries (a Battenburg cake in GA colours and a 'landscape' photo) went down rather poorly with the judges. But we love them anyway...
Throughout the afternoon we served up Toge soup, kimchee and sauerkraut all made from this cabbage's cousins to Show visitors, and it was a great success.