Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Gardener's Diary part 2

After a week's delay I was finally able to get to my house and prepare a small area of the garden for some roses I want to plant. For a few minutes I was pleased at the quality of the soil - then I hit rock. At least that's what I thought, until I realised that I was hitting hard, compacted clay. It made my digging very heavy going. It took me a couple of hours, five bags of composted cow manure and about 4kg of gypsum, but I think (I hope!) that I've done enough to give my roses a suitable home.

I topped it all off with a good thick layer of sugar cane mulch to stop weeds from overtaking before I can get back to it. However, I suspect there will be another dry spell and a few days of gusty wind, and I'll find the mulch blown everywhere except on the garden where I put it. I guess that's a problem with long-distance gardening (but hopefully long distance for only a few more weeks).

It seems like someone in their wisdom had tried to improve the drainage problems caused by the heavy clay - by adding copious amounts of pebbles - which didn't help. It was like digging into half-set concrete.

Considering the area I worked was only about 5 or 6 square metres, I had a very significant reality check regarding the work I had dreamed of doing around the garden - now I have the rest of the 900 square metres to look forward to. But I'm sure I'll see the benefit and get a little encouragement, when the first roses have been planted and start to thrive.

Unfortunately this has been an easy task in comparison to some that I face. There are several old tree stumps that need to be removed. I also have a tall unidentified deciduous bushy thing beside the house that I want to remove - it's right next to the place I want to plant one of my Red Pierres - but its trunk at ground level is about 30cm diameter. At least it divides into significantly smaller branches not too far above ground level. I had enough fun removing two metres of wisteria roots from the area I dug on the weekend, so I'm not really looking forward to dealing with the unknown monstrosity.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Gardener's Diary part 1

For over ten years we have lived in a suburban flat with a balcony that gets insufficient sun to grow anything worthwhile: therefore gardening was never an issue. However, a year and a half ago we bought a house in a NSW country town that we rented to tenants, with the intention of moving in ourselves when the time was right.

Since buying the house, gardening has become a passion - even though, so far, I haven't been able to indulge in the practical side of things. While not able to get my hands dirty, or work up a sweat using a spade, I've been using my time to plan what I'd like to do when we do move into the house. There will be a native garden at the front and a rose garden at the back and I also want to grown some of our own fruit and veggies.

Very recently the tenants gave notice of their impending departure and we have decided it is now time to sell up in Sydney and start our new life in the country. It's an exciting prospect - made more tempting by the chance to finally get some dirt on my hands.

At the end of June I'm hoping to undertake my first constructive work in the garden. Prior to this, the only gardening project I accomplished at the house was an act of wisteria-cide, when I disposed of a rampant plant that was threatening to overtake the front of the building.

I intend to prepare a couple of small areas where I can plant a few roses. The eradicated wisteria had been growing on a couple of wire covered frames at each side of the house. I will use these to support Red Pierre roses. I will also grow a few Fiona's Wish and Double Delights in the same general area. One of the frames is very near to the front door and I'd like visitors to be greeted by something welcomingly fragrant.

At the moment, pots of roses are overtaking my balcony. While they won't grow to maturity here, hopefully they'll survive well enough during the rest of this winter until they are planted in the garden. In addition to a Red Pierre and two Fiona's Wish - bought in pots from the nursery, I took a gamble with three bare-rooted Double Delights, bought from a chain store. I've potted them and I'm trying to keep them well watered until they rejuvenate. They were possibly a bit too dry when I bought them so who knows how successful (or not) they'll be, but at $3.00 each I thought it was worth a try. I gave them a good 24 hour soak in a bucket of water prior to planting. Only time will tell whether they were past all hope.

As the time for my first project approaches, I have to find a suitable mulch to apply after the garden bed has been prepared. I want to avoid material too light or dusty that's likely to blow around in the wind. So far the best option seems to be a product sold by a local rose nursery. Basically this is small cubes of lucerne hay (possibly combined with appropriate nutrients). This appears to be perfect for the job, but seems to be quite expensive.