Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Garden wars

Gardening in Iona is a constant challenge. If there's not the salt edged wind burning the plants or whisking away the top soil, there's the animals, poking their noses - sometimes their entire bodies - over the wall and devouring anything within reach. Like the cows here:

There's been years of fertilising the garden with battered seaweed: this is a double edged sword. It protects and enriches the soil, but it also encourages the weeds. My definition of a weed is the right plant in the wrong place, and the right place for weeds as far as I'm concerned is as part of the bulwark near the beach, which is helping protect the road from the encroaching sea. The picture below shows parts of the garden shed, practically covered by the rosebay willowherbs, which are encouraged for the bees (who adore them). Those plants are taller than I am!

Still, now that I've spent many energetic hours transporting the hundred or so wheelbarrow loads of seaweed from the shore, it's time to start planning next year's garden. For many years, I've taken the traditional view that flowers go in the front garden and vegetables in the back, but now I'm beginning to waver a bit. For one thing, the main vegetable patch is bordered by the bee hives and standing in the flight path of determined bees while trying to weed is more of a challenge than necessary - especially when it's done in a hot day in full bee protective gear.

So, last year, I started a herb garden in part of the front garden, transplanting some parsley. I was pleased that the parsley thrived, much to the annoyance of one of my neighbours, a very religious man, who just couldn't get parsley to grow in his garden. Not surprising: the superstition is that the roots of parsley grow so far down, they stretch down to hell, though personally I'd think that's more appropriate to docks. The embryonic herb garden photo is here: it doesn't show the borage which I added rather tentatively, and regretted somewhat as it began to dominate the whole patch. It's a real thug of a plant, but the flowers are so pretty.

My idea now is to plant some more parsley (though I'll be surprised if it hasn't self seeded - after all, I let it flower), and plant onions and potatoes. I'd wanted to use the red King Edward potatoes, but they're main crop, so I've got the early varieties, happily chittering (is that the right word? it sounds odd) on the kitchen windowsill in Edinburgh, waiting until I can plant them at the end of the month.

I've got onions too, though I haven't been lucky with them so far. My aim is to have enough onions to plait them into coils.

March seems to be the best time to plant more seeds. That's going to be a problem, as I'm likely to be away from Iona then. I may make the assumption that as the Iona climate is so temperate, I can start sowing in February. Certainly, the bulbs are beginning to grow. There's thousands of bluebells, and this year there will be more daffodils (planting all two hundred of them was a bit of chore) and if the hyacinths come up too, that will be a real treat for the bees.