A View From The Greenhouse; Burn Down The Mission

A View From Quite Close To The Greenhouse
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2023

Welcome once again Postaliers to the continuing adventures of this singularly rough gardener and his occasional “partner in crime”. In this weeks instalment we get radical with a plum tree, find out what “root stock” is and, quite probably, see ourselves relying at least for a year or two, on scrumped Victoria’s if we’re going to ever make plum jam again. “Act in haste and repent at leisure” is one of those time worn phrases I’ve always known I should take more heed of, who knows, maybe next time?

Radical Pruning, Will it Work?
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2023

I’ve mentioned before how frustrating it’s been getting consistent harvests from the old plum tree, which sits just behind the “bait cabin” sheltered from the easterly winds by the greenhouses. Lack of fruit one year, lots the next, but always (in recent years) prone to canker and  unavoidable wasp attack. I’ve no idea how old the tree itself is but it’s played on my mind for a while as to how I might get better yield and quality so this year, after consulting an expert in matters arboreal, who said early spring was always the best time to prune, I decided to have a word with Dave about giving me a hand to “cut it back a bit”. You have to understand that “give me a hand” translates in Dave’s head to “will you do a job while I look on”, but that’s by the by. I’ve never pruned a fruit tree before, neither has Dave for that matter, but he took on the job, as he always does, with enthusiastic gusto. To be fair, neither of us knew where to start, much less where to finish and we’ve made a bit of a dogs breakfast of it. It doesn’t help to find out, after the event, that plum trees fruit cyclically and in tune with seasonal weather variations and that canker, far from being a problem with the tree itself, is likely to do with the ground and the nutrients available to the roots. As always, I hope for the best following my cack handed attempt to improve something by going at it in (probably) completely the wrong way. Time, as they say, will tell.

Transplanted For Posterity, Fingers Crossed
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2023

Growing profusely around the plum tree are any number of healthy looking saplings, in my naivety I assumed they’d formed, over time, from the stones of fallen fruit. Consequently I drew up a mental back up plan to carefully uproot the best looking one and transplant it into my garden, planting it in a compost mulch and making a mental note to feed it. Our soil is mostly clay, which stops oxygen circulation around roots, which leads (I found out post pruning) to the forming of the harmful bacteria which can cause canker, excess moss growth, etc. The lifting was successful, as was the replanting, although the fact the root of the sapling was perpendicular to the young tree should have at least given me pause to consider why. The sapling isn’t growing from “seed”, it’s “root stock” as all the saplings probably are. I’m informed from my tree “expert” that what I’ve planted, depending on whether or not the original tree was grafted, may not survive and even if it does it may well not be a plum. I hope to be around long enough to find out, but, as they say, several lessons have been learned.

Salad Days
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2023

In the greenhouse itself the little jobs get done, after a fashion, in the cold frame we have peas, beans of broad, runner, french and climbing varieties, peas, chilies, peppers, two trays of “hopeful” tomatoes along with mixed leaves and cos lettuce. The salad beds are prepared and fertilised and I’ll start putting radish in by the end of this month. I’m also going to be trying beetroot again, something which I’ve had limited success with in the past, but something which has lots of things within it which apparently boost the immune system and contribute to maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. No bad thing, given everything that’s happening which is likely to make one want to blow a gasket.

Rocket x 3, Charlotte x 3
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2023

I’ve always had mixed success with potatoes, so I’m cutting back this year and “staggering” the planting. I’ve got two types of first earlies, the first half dozen of which I started  off last week. I’ve two dozen seed in total, so I’ll plant them over a twelve week period and hopefully have “new” potatoes throughout June, July and August. I’ve got a few main crop reds which I’ll put in later and hope to get four decent ones for the village show. There’s a new shield this year, for best single exhibit in the horticultural section. I tell people I’m not really a “pot hunter” and it’s all about the taking part, but who doesn’t like a trophy now and again?

Stitches Of Spuds & Onions
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2023

This area is where I had the peas and beans last year. It turned into a right mess, mostly because I’d set too many plants too close together, so I’ve been a little more circumspect (more of which in later editions) and I’ve rotated the red onions and potatoes to this separated plot. Forty onion sets and two short rows of three of the potatoes in each should mean no over cropping to worry about and some good healthy produce. People ask why I grow red onions, as they’re always readily available, but I like them for cooking, salads and chutney making, they keep for ages in the bait cabin and it’s my business what I grow anyway. I don’t see the same people complaining when they want to “borrow” an onion!

Tomato Lift Off, More Luck Than Judgement
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2023

Twenty six tomato seedlings through and sat on a windowsill with snow still on the ground. Some St. Pierre, a couple of San Maranzano, four of the purple Cuban cherry, a hybrid cherry from a bought tom and (I think) tigrella and yellow plum, which originally came from our friend in Devon. Updates on a fortnightly basis, the next stage is to pot them on and get them hardy enough for the cold frame.

Blencathra, From The South
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2023

Of course, even in the depths of winter, there’s time for a walk along the old coach road between Matterdale Common and St. Johns In The Vale to admire the splendour of Skiddaw, Lonscale and Blencathra and have quiet moment or two to ruminate on affairs both current and historical.  As some of you may well remember from both articles and comments over the years I’ve long been a critic of the erstwhile “National Treasure” that is our State Broadcaster. In 2018 I wrote a poem of rhyming sestets, called “Machine” which was published at the time on this august platform. It now languishes in “drafts”, a victim of the shared data problem of a couple of years ago, but that’s another matter.

Remember the footballer, all jug eared and happy

And those edgy comedians, quick witted and snappy

The current affairs team, all antagonistic grilling

And the foreign correspondents, so brave and so willing

Those radio popsters, the DJ’s and chat hosts

Now all bland and faceless, entertaining by rote

The premise of the poem was a simple one, based loosely on the scene in “A Clockwork Orange”, where Alex is to be dissuaded from his errant ways by a combination of drugs and being forced to watch video films and take part in role play involving his previously much loved “Ultra Violence”. I created a fictional scenario where all those wishing to sup at the very top table within the BBC were required to visit the basement of Broadcasting House and be “indoctrinated” in the ways of “Progressive Liberalism”. Above is a verse taken from the poem which alludes to a certain football commentator and awards ceremony presenter who now (or so it seems) has become the centre of the ultimate “tail wags dog” story. No names, no pack drill and you’ll all have seen, I’m sure, the many social media posts of both support and opposition for this chap who would have you believe (he’s far from alone) that wanting to bring an end to illegal immigration and cross channel people trafficking makes one a “Nazi”.  Any normal employer would have meted out proportionate discipline and stuck by its guns in the face of the inevitable “Reeing” of the talking head cognoscenti, but the worship of the Cult Of Celebrity is strong within this country, in fact nowhere is it stronger that within the BBC itself, which, if the rumours are to be believed, will (if it already hasn’t) apologise and reinstate him to his rightful position. The BBC has long been its own worst enemy, now we see it, in all its shabby glory; It’s become the Doctor Frankenstein to every “Celebrity Talent” monster it’s helped create. This should be the final nail, but the politicians of this country seem to be equally in thrall to the “No I’m Spartacus” brigade as the BBC is, so on it’ll go, Charter and all, spending £millions annually on paying very smug “celebrities” to talk about football during a highlights show, something which no one actually needs and very few (less than 5% of the adult population if viewing figures are to be believed) really wants.

A pox on all their many and various houses.

© Colin Cross 2023