Getting the orchard ready

Yesterday was a working day of two halves. 

In the morning I was carrying on with autumn cutting-back for a client with a large rural garden. Lots of shrubs, many of them quite elderly, needed a good trim to keep them in some sort of shape, and to take them back from windows and gutters: viburnum, osmanthus, climbing roses – all were unruly and needed taming. Others were also starting to flop over onto the lawn in places, interfering with mowing, and eventually shading out the grass beneath. Fortunately the client has a more-or-less permanent bonfire spot, so disposing of cuttings is never a problem. There’s also a good source of wood ash for mulching, as long as it stays dry. 

After that it was on to the orchard. There are only a couple of apple trees, but the patch still has an ‘orchard’ feel to it. The owner’s plan is to reseed this area with grass, with plenty of bulbs to naturalise. The old grass had become weed-infested, with lots of tree suckers and roots, as well as swathes of Cow Parsley (which looks pretty of course). Sadly, the soil – which is lovely and rich – is full of stones as well. So raking these off was a priority. There’s no way we can get rid of all of them, but the majority, and certainly all the larger (2" plus) ones can be taken off. These will be used as hardcore under the new path which will run down one side of the orchard to the gate at the bottom. Amongst the stones, each rake-over produced a handful of flower bulbs – narcissi, galanthus, and fritillaries – which can be rescued and replanted in due course. There were also the inevitable bits of broken glass, and what looked like a sheep’s jawbone…

Then it was a case of going back over the ground pulling out roots and shoots which had survived the rotavator’s earlier attentions. Most came away with a good tug, the soil being soft and crumbly after some heavy overnight rain. Another rake-over – and all should be set for sowing grass seed (a shade-tolerant mix) next time.

After many recent days of pruning and clipping – quite hard on the secateur-wielding hand, but not likely to induce a sweat – it was a pleasant change to have some more physical work to get stuck in to. My after-work bath was more welcome than ever as my aching muscles warmed up and relaxed… There is no feeling like it.

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