Party Time (The story of a lost orchard – part 4)
I worked through the summer of 2014 without really making much progress. I had limited time to spend outdoors and when I did get out the garden was calling me louder than the field. We had a big party in the garden in midsummer and it was looking wonderful, but if it was hard work already keeping the garden under control, what kind of maintenance nightmare was I creating down in the field.
A few of the guests wandered down towards the field, but even if they were interested, or aware enough of what we were doing, it was hardly possible to get in to it in party clothes. You still needed protection against the nettles and brambles, which were getting worse rather than better. In the winter there’s an illusion of progress, because the nettles die back and the brambles at least pause in their endless reaching out and re-rooting. But in summer they were merciless, re-covering every square inch of cleared ground. I had spent hours in the winter digging out bramble roots, but where one had gone, there suddenly seemed to be five new ones, springing up from the bits of root left unexcavated.
And there was a whole range of new types of weed taking over. Nature abhors a vacuum and weeds will rush in to any cleared space. Sticky willy (gallium aparine) seemed particularly aggressive, but it was far from the only invader. All the usual garden and hedgerow weeds rushed in and many others that were less familiar to me. By July there was little sign that I’d done any clearing at all. The jungle had re-established itself.
Even the rediscovered steps out onto the road were disappearing again. That was a blow too far to my pride in the progress I’d made earlier in the year. At least in that corner of the field I fought back, cleared the weeds, put in a board to edge the steps and in the autumn re-seeded with grass, mixed in with wildflower seed. I wasn’t sure that I could really distinguish wild flowers (good) from weeds (bad), but this was a hedgerow bank, not a lawn, so there had to be some tolerance of nature’s disorder.
I kept cutting back and cutting back elsewhere, but in reality I was just waiting for the autumn to call a halt to rampant growth. Only then could we take the next step forward.
This is the fourth post in a series about the restoration of an old orchard. You can see the earlier posts at the links below: