Gardening Journal – Entry 22

Sunday 16 January 2022

During these cold months, as we all recover from the busyness of Christmas and the occasional dreariness of January, I like to keep my weekends fairly open. I use the end of the week to rest and recover from working out in the cold and take the opportunity to spend some quality time with my family.

However, even after the freezing temperatures recently which warranted a hibernation weekend, I loved going to the Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses on Sunday. Sometimes the best kind of motivation and inspiration comes from doing what you do every day in a completely different space. It left me ready to start the new week and get my sites looking great as my days in my current job come to a close. The next couple of weeks are going to fly by and before I know it I’ll be handing over my keys and packing everything up. Might as well make the most of the time I have left!

Monday 10 January 

Monday mornings are always slightly frantic, largely due to the fact that we have all got a bit too used to waking up later and not needing to be in uniform at 7am. This morning, I started by checking on the sites I had worked on last week. Some areas that had been under fallen leaves for months had accumulated an algae-like slimy substance, which needed to be dried out. After a weekend of airing, the site was safe again and looking great. Someone had even placed my safety cones in a lovely ring around the base of the tree – very kind but a tad unhelpful. A friendly reminder; health and safety signage is there for a reason, not just for fun! 

After that, I worked on edging up a bank close to one of the lakes. Edging or edging up refers to the redefining of the edge of a lawn through either slicing downwards and along with a half-moon or using edging shears. It helps the edge of the lawn look neater, prevents encroaching of the grass on hard standing and even prevents trips! This particular bank had not been edged up since before I started working here, so it required a good slice with the half-moon to cut through the dense sward that had formed over the brickwork. After pulling away the larger, more obvious clumps, I swept along the edge with a broom, dislodging any loose blades of grass. I also worked on getting another defined edge a bit neater. For this kind of thing, I use sharp edging shears, which cut through the blades of grass that have grown outwards and help to maintain a small gap between the soil profile and the paving. I like using this method as it makes further maintenance a lot easier and gives you a little more time before the grass begins to encroach on the pathway. 

This is a great task to do first-thing at the start of the week, as it gives such an immediate impact and makes you feel like you’ve actually achieved something that will last for a while. Well, until the grass starts growing again in spring and it becomes a weekly job!

Tuesday 11 January

Today was spent finishing even more edging – this time of tree pits. While tree pits are technically the hole that a tree is initially planted in, I’m referring to a circle or square that is cut out of the lawn around the trunk of the tree. While not everyone loves them, here are some of the reasons I’m a big fan:

  • Tree pits make mowing around tree trunks easier and prevent damage to the roots and trunk when strimming too
  • Seasonal mulching of tree pits helps to return nutrients to the growing environment
  • Tree pits look neat, as they are easier to clean up with some edging, whereas it can be tricky to get an even cut when the grass grows right up to the trunk
  • They prevent compaction of the soil, as people do not tend to step inside tree pits and prefer to keep to the grass
  • Tree pits can help more water reach the roots, as there is less of a barried between the atmosphere and the soil
  • In addition, when measured out correctly, the tree pit will extend to the canopy edge, also known as the drip line. This means that rainwater caught in the tree’s branch network will fall onto the tree pit, taking the water straight to the root system
  • Tree pits tend to look very neat and are common in botanical gardens, which is something we can all aspire to even in our own gardens

When edging up tree pits, I tend to start with a half-moon and carve out the circle or square, flicking the soil upwards to create a small mound closer to the tree trunk. After that, I go over the edge with the shears to get a lovely, crisp finish.

Wednesday 12 January

For me, Wednesdays are always spent looking at my to do list and realising that as much as the week is dragging, time is running out! My plan for the next couple of weeks is to get my sites up to a nice standard before I move on to my new job. Hopefully, the person who takes over from me can have a good framework to work off.

Today I started to tackle a bed that I hadn’t looked at in almost a year. Back in summer, I climbed through the overgrown brush to give the Pyracantha a once over. While I removed a large portion of the shrub, it barely looks like I’ve made a dent. Typically, you wouldn’t take too much off a tree or shrub during this time of year, as there is strict legislation surrounding the disturbance of nesting birds. However, as long as you are vigilant and carefully check the plant for any evidence of this, it is usually okay. I had always wanted to go back over this shrub and prune it back into shape, however, I needed to get rid of the three D’s first (that’s Diseased, Damaged and Dead, but I also like to add Distorted to the list to cover things like nutrient deficiencies and reversion). The shrub was suffering with bad coral spot, which is a fungal disease that is best removed by careful pruning.

After hacking away at it for a couple of days, a wildflower meadow was planted right next to the bed, making maintenance of this border a little trickier. So once I had mown the meadow down, I got to work on the neglected border until the end of the week!

Thursday 13 January

I started on the border bright and early today, removing some of the weeds that had been happily growing for 11 months. By this point, they came up to my waist, which made them easier to pull out without too much digging, but does mean that they have likely already set seed and are going to be a nightmare for the next few years!

I removed as many large, annual weeds before moving onto the fiddly perennials and their stubborn taproots. Since receiving a hori knife for my birthday last year, perennial weeds have been no match for me, and digging them out is a breeze. If you’re looking for a garden multi-tool, a hori is the way to go.

Friday 14 January

Today was a race from start to finish. I had it on my list to complete the aforementioned weedy border by the end of the day and, while there is still a little bit of work to be done, I came pretty close.

Today I essentially removed the dead. I swept out all the dead leaves, cut away any dead Pyracantha branches and removed any dead plants below the shrub, which included several self-seeded Solanum capsicastrum that were struggling to compete with their parent plants. While the space may look quite bare after the removal of the weeds and failing S. capsicastrum, it is important to give plants enough space to grow and provide them with a good amount of airflow to prevent fungal diseases from spreading (I’m looking at you, coral spot). All in all, I got some big jobs finished that had been postponed for months, which is always a good feeling.

Next week, I’ll be finishing this off with the removal of some epicormic growth on the Pyracantha and getting the edge nice and sharp. I can’t wait to finally see this border looking its best, just in time for me to leave!