I’ve been out in my allotment garden today, planting new trees. At least, I’ve been pretending to. In fact, my wife did most of the work whilst I stood around taking photographs. When we moved to this place, the garden was massively overgrown with leylandii and various other trees which shaded all the growing space. I cut them almost all of them down, as I’ve detailed here. We spent quite a bit of time and effort preparing the soil, which meant double digging it, cutting out all the remaining tree roots and removing as many of the chalk lumps we could find. All in preparation for today!
That’s how the trees were delivered: bare rooted, bagged up and soaking in water. The pot with the broken stem in it used to belong to a money tree. What an old load of bollocks that myth turned out to be! We lovingly tended that money tree for a decade, dragging it out in the summer, bringing it indoors in the winter, carefully dusting its leaves, monitoring it for fungus. Our care led it to grow to an enormous size: it got to be nearly five feet high and wide. Last month we suddenly realised that not only had it not brought us any cash, in fact during the time we had been looking after it, we had been haemorrhaging money. The facts have been staring us in the face ~ it wasn’t my errant lifestyle, replete with all night benders, wild charitable donations and careless financial discipline. No, it was all the trees fault. Well, it got its comeuppance! Once the game was up, it didn’t take long for us to exact our revenge and it wasn’t much of a struggler. My wife tells me that it was actually worth quite a bit of money itself but I’m pleased that she tore it apart in a rage one morning, quite unexpectedly, because that prevents it from harming anyone else. I digress.
I know very little about nature and growing stuff. Luckily, my wife has been reading about little else throughout her entire life. For some reason connected with the fact that we have a chalky soil, it was necessary to spread sulphur all over the beds and then dig this devilish powder in.
I watched my wife do this bit. Pretty soon she’d covered an entire bed with the very slightly stinky stuff. Personally, I like the smell of sulphur. It reminds me of my fireside chats with the Devil. Ah, the good old days, when it was easy to tell which side of good and evil you were on, when life’s complexities were reduced to the simplicity of a game of chess and when I wasn’t married but could take my pick of the freshest fruit… I digress. Back to the sulphur.
First, we planted a cherry tree. My wife made up a solution of a special fungus and water which she wanted to cover the roots with. Apparently the roots and the fungus work together. The fungus grows rapidly through the soil, aided by the roots. The roots soak up water more efficiently because of the presence of the fungus.
Let’s face it, there’s bound to be some scientific explanation involved here. I pressed my wife with questions about this. Why? How? She didn’t seem to know. She took a much more earthy approach: “It says so in all the gardening programmes and books,” was all she would say. Convinced that she was hiding something from me, I pressed on with the questions but she didn’t take kindly to that. “Read the bloody books yourself, I don’t know.” Didn’t she crave knowledge? Didn’t she want to quench her thirst for it? “No, I just want to get these trees planted and get out of the rain.” I couldn’t fault her practical approach to life so I continued to fret about the precise fungal mechanism whilst photographing her swilling the roots of the cherry tree in the solution, prepared to a random strength because we had been unable to discover how much to use. We also covered the bottom of the hole dug for the tree with the dried fungus, which looked suspiciously like cat litter.
Next up, I banged a stake into the ground. Then we realised that the crown of the roots was too big to sit right next to the stake. It is plainly too far away from the cherry tree to be of much use. Never mind. I don’t like cherries anyway. Here’s the unfinished product. Whether it will produce any of the nasty fruit, I do not know.
If I’d have had my way, I’d have planted only blackberries and plums. There’s time enough for that yet though ~ there’s plenty more space to plant more fruit bushes. However, my wife, bless her, dug her heels in and insisted that we have the cherry. After that, we put a plum tree in. Plums seem to do particularly well on the Sussex downland. They don’t need any sulphur at all! Here’s the plum tree.
Next, we put in a couple of fruit bushes. One was a redcurrant and I forget what the other was. Perhaps it was a goosberry. I hope not. They are disgusting. For some reason, my wife insists on growing fruit which only she likes.
By this point, me just snapping photographs, pressing home scientific enquiries and generally not doing much more than holding a few sticks seemed somehow inadequate for my wife. Suddenly a big fucking shovel was in my hand and I was digging a trench. Into this trench went a bunch of raspberry canes.
For the record, here’s what we planted:
- One redcurrant, Jonkeer Van Tets
- One gooseberry, Hinnomaki Green (eurgh)
- One blackcurrant, Big Ben (I don’t remember doing this)
- One cherry, Maynard
- One plum tree, Tit Krimsk
- Eighteen raspberry canes, Polka, Glen Ample and Tulameen
I guess you could say that we like raspberries. I am beginning to think that I will be enjoying gooseberries and cherries before too long. Everything I’ve eaten from my allotment garden has been absolutely delicious. Sometimes I just go out there and get down on my hands and knees and graze. This is much cheaper and less soul destroying than visiting Asda.