As February gave way to meteorological Spring I felt happily satisfied that I’d managed to get a decent head start on this year’s gardening calendar – my first full horticultural Season in our new garden – by doing a lot of the groundwork over Winter.
The changeable weather was weird, of course, but the sunshine which ushered in the vernal equinox was unseasonably glorious and successfully beckoned all the buds to burst. Even Bloke celebrated the start of astronomical Spring by donning a pair of shorts and, without any prompting from me, stirred the lawn mower out of hibernation.
Then suddenly, without warning, we found ourselves falling forward, with the clocks, headlong into April. March seemed to just disappear. In a haze of sawdust and clouds upon clouds of plaster dust. There will be one final dusty push in a week or so, when the last of the glazing arrives, but for now we’re enjoying a short, quiet reprieve from all the indoor builder’s chaos and it’s a relief to have the house and garden back to ourselves for a bit.
‘Ourselves’ includes the resident and visiting wildlife. Huge brimstone butterflies have woken from the ivy, fluffy long-tailed tits are diligently feather-fetching and nest-building in the privet hedge and woodpeckers are providing the familiar percussive sound track to the Spring surge of budding, busying and being.
Altogether less joy inducing, however, are the alien-like chafer grubs that are hell-bent on destroying what’s left of the lawn. (I’m still using the word ‘lawn’ very, very loosely). Horrible little buggers!!! When I said I wanted a wildlife-friendly garden, an infestation of destructive little critters is not really what I had in mind. (Be careful what you wish for!) Somewhat more cooperatively than the butterflies and birds, the chafers do at least stay still long enough for me to take some incriminating, evidential photographs. And even though the magpies go nuts for them, they’re still horrible little buggers.
I can’t really justify the expense but I might need a faster, longer lens for photographing the birds. Or a bird hide! How cool would that be? That’s less of a throwaway comment than it might first appear – a hide would certainly be cheaper than photographic equipment – but it’s a slightly off-the-wall idea that requires a lot of further thought. The details are more than just a bit blurry…
Conceptually, I’m very keen on the layering, no-dig approach to gardening but I think it’s crucially and fundamentally important to know exactly what sort of ground you are, in fact, layering upon. (Any excuse for a shiny new spade really!)
It was in lifting the turf to double dig two new wavy borders that I discovered, and then actually found myself rootling through the earth for, the chafers. I now know a lot more about them than I ever cared to. And my research inevitably led me to the weirdly interesting possibility of utilising nematodes as a method of biological chafer control. It’s fascinating stuff. Honestly. And a little bit scary. I’ve never deliberately introduced nematodes into a garden (or anywhere else for that matter) before. It seems like the kind of thing real gardeners might do, not slightly unhinged types like me – who roam around outdoors in order to load up on fresh air and sunlight just to feel a bit less strung out.
The thought of leaving the grubs underground, pupating, until the ground temperature is raised high enough for the nematodes to become effective does not sit well with me. My intention was always to remove the ‘lawn’ from the top tier of the garden – eventually – and replace the whole thing with beds and borders but I had thought that I might leave a grass path meandering through the planted areas. As so often happens, the garden has other ideas and it has stated, unequivocally, that the turf – and grubs – need lifting. And soon.
Just a little bit more digging to do then…
Digging up the ‘lawn’ proper on the bottom tier of the garden is completely out of the question. Even I’m not so bloody-minded or bonkers enough to attempt that. My plan is to just gently and intermittently (post cutting) apply a preparatory, non-toxic mix of organic fertiliser and grass seed to keep the ‘lawn’ as healthy as possible until the weather has warmed up enough to send in the tube worms to turn the unwelcome, horrible little buggers inside out. Wow, that sounds brutal.
Gardening is such a peaceful practice!