Thursday, 3 February 2011

Notes from My Garden

Blackcurrants

It was midday and I had been inside all morning doing catch-up chores - fascinating things like washing up pots and pans, unloading the dishwasher, replying to texts, making beds, tidying rooms and doing the laundry. Too tedious for words really, though essential to the smooth running of a busy household, more's the pity. The sun was out and the garden was calling me. I had blackcurrants to plant, after all.

I told you, didn't I, that I'd embarked on a gardening course in September? It's a City & Guilds course in Practical Gardening which has numerous modules running over a two year period. So every Wednesday I get in my car and drive an hour and a half down to Reaseheath College in Cheshire and leave my world of dirty socks and pants behind. I'm studying with a great bunch of like-minded people and I always come home tired but inspired.

Last week we had to prune established blackcurrant bushes and then go and prepare a trench in which we were to plant loads of new young blackcurrants. Digging over grass and weed-covered alluvial soil, with a certain amount of clay content, after the winter rains was no easy task. It made me appreciate all the more the beautiful loamy soil I am blessed with in my own garden - so very fertile and so much easier to work. Still, it was a job well done and we finished with a fine row of bushes which we then pruned right down to encourage them to produce vigourous new growth which will produce fruits on the new wood in just over a year's time.

We have been studying fruit growing this term among other things - top fruit (apples, pears, plums etc) and soft fruit. It has been marvellous to learn things in the classroom that perhaps I didn't know before and, armed with that new knowledge, stride confidently up to the top of my garden where my own little collection of fruit grows.

Now, as you will rightly observe, I am hardly in the best neck of the woods for prolific fruit production. The High Peak, with its relentless winds and rain, does not boast bucolic fields of orchards and bountiful fruit farms urging you to 'pick your own' as I grew up with in the gentler climes of Sussex, located as it is in the south-east corner of our blessed isle. Compared to here, the south-east seems positively Mediterranean to me these days. But, as I have learned, many cultivars of blackcurrants and raspberries have been developed up in the Scottish highlands and lowlands (known, respectively as the Bens and the Glens) and, therefore, have become suitably acclimatised to these sturdier northern temperatures.

And so it is, as I head up to my inherited fruit garden (in fact just a casual patch hemmed in by drystone wall, rhododendron and greenhouse), that I am lucky to be able to play with blackcurrants, raspberries and gooseberries. (Truth to tell, I moved the gooseberries - they were originally located in a large but ramshackle border near the house and, while trying to develop it, I tired of snagging my cardi on their vicious little thorns.)

But you know, I have to go and get the children now and buy a pruning saw while I am at it (no connection intended), so I shall finish this story tomorrow.

6 comments:

elizabethm said...

I didn't know you were at Reaseheath! I have been wondering about doing a course there and only haven't because of the way the world fell in this autumn. What is the name of the one you are doing?
We grow fruit remarkably well up here on our hills too - gooseberries, raspberries and blackcurrants all do fine and blueberries, newly planted a couple of years ago, seem to be settling in well too.

HER ON THE HILL said...

Hi Elizabeth - lovely to hear from you again and very belated happy new year wishes to you and yours. I must come over to yours and catch up some more with your news - time has been so hard to find since September for me too, but I think of you often.

The course is called C&G certificate in Practical Gardening. I chose it over the RHS Level 2 in Horticulture after a chat with the tutor and because I didn't want to bite off more than I could chew, knowing my time was so limited. As it was I only signed up because they were not going to examine this year - and then they changed their minds and I am currently locked into loads of revision so lots of other things have had to go on hold.

I think you would love it. The tutors and people on the course are fabulous. Made so many new friends already. Come along next year!

I saw blueberries at the garden centre the other day and my hand quivered over them...

Your growing conditions will be remarkably similar to mine, I imagine.

x

Linda Chapman said...

I am enjoying hearing about YOUR gardening....perhaps it will inspire me....as soon as the ice melts from this weird week we have had in North Texas! It is time to be pruning my rose bushes and cutting back our lantanas!

Pondside said...

The gardening course sounds like such a good thing to do. I'd love to have a better understanding of the soil and conditions and how best to prune etc out here. Good for you!
I look forward to some garden photos....

Mark said...

I once went on a raspberry picking 'holiday' near Inverness - very tenuous link to your post this is - it was the summer before Uni. My pal didn't tell me until we arrived that he was colour blind between red and green! We ended up working in the jam factory, had an adventure at a party when a guy pulled gun; and I fell in love with Marion who subsequently got arrested on a Greenpeace march the weekend I went to stay at her home. Happy times.

HER ON THE HILL said...

Linda - gosh, snow in Texas! That must be weird indeed. Hope things return to normal soon :-)

Pondie - you should go and find a similar course. There's bound to be something near you. It is great if you are into all things natural.

Mark - love this anecdote! Where's Marion now, I wonder? And I understand the gun-pulling stunt - we had the same one drunken evening in Padova...

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