Cold, almost sleety rain, and a lorry-load of composted manure. Not perhaps the most enticing start to the day, but needs must. My client’s garden has been steadily getting clear of perennial weeds – largely couch grass, with a bit of ground elder, docks, and a lot of dandelions for good measure. Now was the time to deliver a coup de grace.
The soil is chalky but also sticky and clayish, the consequence so often of newly-built houses in this part of the country. Masses of stones and flints, along with a helping of builder’s rubble, and perilously thin topsoil, can make working the ground a real chore. Planting too can be difficult, as there’s scarcely sufficient depth of earth to get roots down into if the plants are of a decent size. So a good covering of manure would serve at least three purposes: it would suppress weed regrowth from the cleared and tidied borders; it will improve the soil structure and the nutritional content of the soil; and it will make everything look tidy for the winter. I’ve been putting lots of bulbs in – as mentioned a post or two ago – so they would benefit from a warm blanket too before pushing their noses up in the new year.
At nine thirty prompt, a lorry backed itself effortlessly up the steep driveway, did a nifty three-point turn, and dumped a trailerful of rich, dark compost onto the side of the driveway at the back of the house. As ever, the quantity looked formidable as it sat there steaming gently in the cold morning air.
I lost count after the thirtieth barrowload, but over the course of the day I managed to move, deposit and spread about half the manure from the heap. Unfortunately, the main garden is up steps, so I had to take the barrow round three sides of the house to reach a set of steps low enough to take an improvised plank-ramp. I did speculate during the course of the day whether my recently renewed membership of the local gym was really a sensible investment, as I shed insulating layers down to my shirtsleeves and toiled back and forth.
To be fair, the gym membership is something of an insurance policy, against the days (weeks even) when it really is too cold, wet, windy or snowy to work outdoors. Then I can maintain – even enhance – my level of fitness in the warmth and comfort of the local leisure centre: and also reap the benefit of exercise and exertion on the mind, which might otherwise get sluggish and gloomy.There is nothing to beat the endorphin-rush generated by some hard, physical work. The gym is simply a physical complement to the anti-SAD lightbox which I also use to counter the potentially deadening effects of the dark months.
No danger of that just yet though. The drizzle persisted only for an hour or so, and then it was happy barrowing, shovelling and raking all the day long.