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(OT) Winter cleanup

Thank goodness it's winter. This morning dawned foggy and chilly after a run of mild, mostly sunny weather, the last two days being really springlike: bad for the environment, good for doing garden maintenance.

I've been principally occupied by the delta project. This is the area where the first drainage ditch in the big garden runs off the property and into the neighbors' woods. Some years ago it occurred to me that I was losing water, sediment, and nutrients by maintaining the ditch, and the garden would probably be better served if I blocked the ditch instead and allowed the water to spread out, slow down, and drop its sediment on our property where it would feed our roses, and not on the neighbors' land for the benefit of their nettles and brambles. So I began putting pruned matter in the ditch, and, lo and behold, it worked. The ditch at the bottom has filled in, the water is spreading more widely. We had had a crossing, a drainage pipe with grassy soil covering it: the pipe is completely filled, water flowing over the crossing. This is a problem, of course. I went to pruning two of the roses in the area, 'Violacea' and 'Petite Orléanaise', both vigorous and badly in need of a cleaning up, and scattered the pruned matter over the crossing and everywhere in the area where it squelched when I walked. Of course the pruned matter will capture more sediment. My hope is that in time I'll have a spread of rich, permeable soil through which the water can trickle, without the need for channels. I don't know whether this is reasonable, but it's fun finding out.

The invasive plants down there are fearsome. I must not have worked much there for a couple of years for them to have gotten to this point, and the delta project with its rich moist soil hasn't helped. The area is overgrown with nettles, and nettles are terrible. They root deeply, and then send millions of miles of secondary roots in all directions, at least that's what it feels like; and digging them out of the sticky delta soil is challenging. After the nettles it will be the brambles, which will be worse. There's a jungle of them down on the neighbors' property, and they've now reached up into the roses. Mine to deal with, including the neighboring jungle, just to keep the brambles out of my garden. I spend many hours maintaining my neighbors' property on this principle, fighting off their brush.

I also cleaned up the forsythia and Japanese quince, getting them off each other's throats, and for light relief weeded the herbaceous peonies in the neighboring area and pruned the young figs there. This area may one day become an attractive garden, if my activities can ever overcome the poor soil and finish the planting. I'm thinking it may become part of my next fall campaign. On the principle of never wasting anything, the weeded nettles went on the path there, as the ground is poor and needs extra organic matter. It's a way of transferring nutrients from the ditch to other areas. Another advantage of warm sunny weather is that roots die quickly; certainly I don't want more nettles.

It's still definitely winter, and I hope will stay so for some weeks more. Also, after our recent good rains, I'm starting to worry about water again. Well, patience. The snowdrops, green and common, down in the woods, are in flower. The flower buds of Cornelian cherry are showing color; winter aconite, which I would like more of, is in bloom. The winter jasmine, bright yellow but scentless, is fading, while the shrub honeysuckle is coming into flower, its blooms insignificant but fragrant, detectable at a distance; and the winter flowering cherry is coming into full bloom at last.

I'm still low in energy some weeks after catching Covid, so am working in a pottering manner and with frequent rests while stretched out on the grass. Who knows when I'll get back to normal, but at least I don't have to drag myself off to a paying job, or have demanding care duties at home. I always feel better for being outdoors.

So, people, what have you been doing in the garden?

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