Saturday, 10 May 2014

Stone Mad

We've had a great few weeks of blooming here. Of course now that November-like conditions have set in we can't even see the garden but we know it's all coming together despite the lack of Mayness. I didn't really stop gardening all winter, it's now I'm indoors unable to brave May unless it's offering sunshine.

We made the decision last year to not use weedkiller. I had been to the garden centre and got into conversation with one of the owners about it. She remarked that years ago you could rely on weedkiller to decimate weeds and keep a space totally free of them for months on end but that it doesn't do that any more eventhough it seems to be just as toxic. I told her that I actually like the wild look but that I think you need tall trees around to pull it off because their canopies help to keep growth down and when you have tall trees the weeds just look insignificant. When I got home from the garden centre that day our trees caught my eye and I thought to myself that they were finally getting tall. So, I discussed it with Martin who said he had also been thinking about not using weedkiller because of Sadie and Holly being so low to the ground. He said he'd been watching them playing on the ground and thought that it just couldn't be good to have chemicals there. When I look at these photos I really am glad we've decided to live with the weeds, look at Holly with her "daisy tiara"! So, we are surrounded by weeds....It's  not a case of not being able to see the wood for the trees here so much as not being able to see the trees for the weeds but we're sticking to our guns.

Our onions and potatoes are on the way up and our orchard is now seven trees strong (I called it the orchard when I started it with two trees so laugh if you want, it is my orchard!) and I haven't a clue anymore which tree is which, I'll have to wait for the fruit. I know the apple ones of course and I know we have pear and plum but I think we might have a cherry tree too and I'm not sure which is
which. Our gooseberry, blackcurrant and redcurrant bushes are actual bushes now and my trailing the briars carefully on the fence for the last two years has produced a nice wall of them to make picking blackberries easier. We have two big beds of strawberries that are both in flower at the moment. I have tomatoes inside the glass of the kitchen's sliding door, if they don't produce red tomatoes it'll be my fourth year of failure and I'll give up. It's my first year of having them in the house though so I hope that'll be the answer. I tried year after year in the polytunnel and only ever got green tomatoes. I have a bad feeling that I have as much chance of getting MadrĂșn to bear tomatoes as I have the plants!

Living at the foot of the Comeragh Mountains gives you an endless supply of stone. Three years ago when I started serious digging I began keeping the stones that erupted in mounds at every shovelturn and barrowed them back to our yard. I'm opposed to any further hard landscaping here and Martin said he was putting a low wall right around the back yard unless I could think of something else. There was a trench there when we moved in, presumably the previous owners had planned to put a wall in. There isn't any need for a wall or a barrier of any sort because there's a high bank there, it was annoying though when there'd be any bit of rain and the whole thing would offer Sadie and Holly a trail of deep mud to bathe in. I started barrowing stones. It took about four full
wheelbarrows to fill each width of a wheelbarrow in the trench and it's a long way round. After three years I can now confirm that I am addicted to barrowing stone and am thrilled with the results. I've always kept any sparkly white stones separate thinking I could make some little feature out of them and they've built up nicely and act as what the girls call fairyland. Their little dolls' house figures can often be seen there surveying their kingdom.

Back in January I wrote on my old blog that I'd started on my next garden project, making another small area. I barely took a day off from it eventhough the weather often only allowed for a quick run out to position a few stones before tearing back in absolutely soaked. There was a lot of digging involved but it was worth it, I'm very happy. We had an old gate outside for a the last few years (Martin met someone throwing it out and said he'd take it). We never knew if we'd use it but I asked Martin to put it at the entrance to my project and he did it in no time.

Another treasure unearthed along with the trillions of stones was an old horseshoe which I put on the gate with garden wire and then painted the whole lot. I think the day I did the painting was the one dry day we've had in ages. As you can see living here and being surrounded by stone does have its advantages as some of the stones are massive and can easily be used to make nice dry stone walls. As you can also see the gate also acts to keep the ponies in their field. I have planted this up but you can't see any of that yet. I look forward to a couple of years from now when you won't be able to see into this space unless you look over the gate. When there's enough growth around it to make it private I plan to put a weather station and a sundial in there. Also in the future I'll take out one hawthown hedge plant from the back and will be able to join the two areas up but, for now, the yard acts as a cage for the smallies so I'll be keeping my plans to myself for a while yet.

I'm so impressed by the difference a year makes, this old post in May last year has a picture of this exact space and look at it now, it's so encouraging. The weeds aren't the only things rooting for life: I've noticed that a few timber stumps and logs I've placed for decoration have started producing offshoots and one has lovely blue flowers springing out of it, we'll give the weeds a run for their money if nothing else and we're not short of a pile or two of rubbish offering some groundcover either.

We're not dismissing the possibility that we'll be screaming for help soon due to not being able to find out way out of here as the weeds grow out of control....if you hear us please don't use weedkiller, just get us a helicopter.


  1. I didn't realise that you lived so close to the mountains, that's wonderful. Your stone project reminds me of the giant rockery I built for my parents when I was a teenager, and I enjoyed doing that.

    On the weeds - I rarely use weedkiller, it just makes me uncomfortable, and it's just another thing to buy. I quite enjoy weeding, and if I'm in a bad mood I will happily behead nettles or shrivel the dandelions trying to poke through the stones in the patio with a kettle of boiling water!

  2. Thank you, stone is brilliant and you can always add to or move a rockery or a trench-load if you want, I hope my daughters will be building me rockeries in the future, what a lovely thing to do. I never knew that boiling water could be used like that. I don't take notice of any of the weeds (by averting my eyes mostly) except for the dockleaves, I just hate them. They're in the beds of spring & summer bulbs so I can't dig them out now while the gladioli are coming up so I took a scissors to them...out of sight out of mind for a while!