The frozen ground has set my plans for the Autumn/Winter work back significantly, but much of the tree planting for the new Forest Garden is finished. The jobs that have slipped are the preparation of the Vegetable beds, and wood cutting.
I had hoped to get all of the tree planting done by the end of November/early December, but the snow interrupted work, and once the ground started to thaw, I was caught up in all of the family festivities and visits.I also had to do some remedial work to a beehive that was attacked by a woodpecker, and protect the remaining hives.
My initial plans were to get the trees planted, then build an extension to the wood store, then collect firewood/prepare the vegetable beds, depending on what the weather was like. If the ground was frozen, I could cut wood, but if not, I was planning to work on the vegetable beds. The early cold weather and snow changed all of that. Having left the wood store extension, there was nowhere to store cut firewood, and it was impossible to work on the vegetable beds either.
Tree Planting/Forest Garden
Most of the trees that I wanted to plant this year are now in. I have some Rosa Rugosa, Sea Buckthorn, and Small leaved Lime still to plant, and some Cherry Plum, and Wild Pear yet to arrive. Less than a weeks work all told. After that, all that remains is to fill in the gaps with Willow, and rake up the grass that I scythed in the Autumn, and use it to mulch the trees. In the Spring I have a lot of Comfrey to plant amongst the trees, and some green manure seed to sow around the base of the trees, and on the new swale banks.
The latest version of my Winter preparation includes the addition of Rockdust to each bed, plus crushed charcoal (biochar), a layer of compost, and then topped off with a layer of straw, to protect the surface, and to give some protection to the worms and compost bugs, who are busy working for me. At planting time, the straw, already wet and covered in bugs, is added to the compost heap.
Up until now, I have not had a problem with woodpeckers, but just before Christmas I found a hive that had been damaged. The hole did not look big enough for the bird to have done much damage to the bees themselves, and it’s possible that I had disturbed it when I approached the hive. So I had to get a piece of wood screwed over the hole, and wrap the hive with wire mesh to keep the woodpecker off of the walls of the hive. The hive that was damaged was a conventional one, but I look after four Warre hives close by, so had to do the same with them.
It looks like another busy year ahead.
My first priority is to get the rest of the trees planting finished. This is the last batch of ‘bulk’ tree planting, so although I still have the shrub and ground cover layers of the forest garden left to plant, I am unlikely to need to plant on this scale ever again.
I also need to get the vegetable areas prepared for next year. The delay in covering the beds is not critical, but it would have been nice to avoid, particularly as I had the same problem last year. I did try to start the work yesterday, but when I tried to dig out the oldest compost heap, it was still frozen under the surface. I did manage to crush up a reasonable amount of charcoal and spread that, so as soon as the compost thaws out, I should be able to catch up a bit. I would also like to mulch the paths again, as it does cut down on weeding.
The third job that I have to get on with is cutting back some of the hedges. This wood is scheduled to be used as firewood, but as I wrote earlier, I don’t have anywhere to store it yet. If time gets short, I will probably have to cut it first, then build the shelter, but that means moving the wood twice, and that bugs me.
Looking further ahead, I need to get enough hives ready to deal with this year’s swarming. I know that I need to make some more roofs and floors, and I would like to design a better Warre feeder. I didn’t get as much of my essential oil mixture fed to the bees in the Warre hives as I would have liked. Using a feeding station away from the hives works, but I end up feeding other people’s hives, plus wasps and flies, which isn’t particularly efficient.
I also want to think about how my vegetable area is going to be laid out when I start work on the areas closer to the house. At the moment I cannot use as many perennial plants as I would like, as the layout of the whole area is likely change. I want to incorporate a pond, possibly some call ducks, increase the size of the area, and add some permanent netting and trellis, but cannot put them in until I know that I won’t have to move them.
The final element that I need to look at is a protected area for my young tress, and shrubs. Having ignored my plants for months, the rabbits decided to ‘browse’ on some of my nursery plants. Again, it’s not critical. The plants will grow back, but it’s inconvenient. I have an area of hard standing that I could use, bit it will need some posts and some more wire mesh.
Things to avoid in 2011
Last year two things drained a lot of my time. The first was watering trees. Having planted trees right through February and into March, a dry Spring left me watering young trees with a hosepipe for two to three hours a day. Not only is that not sustainable as far as the water is concerned, I need that time in the vegetable area. I wanted to plant this year’s trees early so that they could get some roots down while the soil was still warm, and reduce the need for my help, but the weather has hindered that a bit. Unless we have a third consecutive dry Spring, I hope to compensate by scything grass early, and using it as a mulch to help retain water.
The second thing that took up time was protecting a nucleus hive from wasps, as described in previous posts.
I cannot afford to spend that amount of time on my beekeeping, as again, it’s always the vegetable growing that suffers.
All of the best