You can call me impatient, I don’t care. But given that this year we’ve had such a rubbish summer and growing season, I couldn’t wait to get ordering for next year. OK, so I know it’s a bit premature but you can’t really blame me now, can you?
The vegetable seed stands are usually cast aside at my local garden centres in favour of Christmas decorations. I can’t stand the sight of Christmas decorations until at least December 1st, so at the moment I’m sticking to browsing my seed catalogues, and ordering online. I have already started my List of Things to Plant Next Year, determined to make a better go of it. The thing I like about buying my veggie seeds online is that quite often, you’ll get extra info about the success rate, the taste, the history as well as useful tips about how to get the best harvest. And of course, you can do it from the comfort of your own big, squashy sofa, roaring fire on the go and cup of hot chocolate in hand.
But I digress. Whilst browsing I decided that we needed to fill a big gap in our hedging here at the Smallest Smallholding. There’s a long stretch of ranch fencing that, over the past couple of years, we’ve attempted to cover up to help foil any escape attempts by the hens. Although we’ve stapled chicken wire all along the fencing, it doesn’t look particularly nice. And being female, I like things to be functional, but look pretty, where possible. Plus, as always I’m keen to grow useful, productive plants as and when I can. We already have a few pyracantha bushes – great for birds and great for hedging; privet and ivy – good cover for wild birds and some extra food; roses, passion flower and buddleia – great for wildlife. But at the top there’s a big old hole that needed filling, and it annoyed me.
Sloes are actually the fruit (or berries) of the blackthorn bush prunus spinosa. They’re fairly common in hedging around the UK and the sloes can prove quite versatile. Immediately, thoughts of sloe gin, sloe wine and sloe jam started coming to mind. OK – so the birds will probably get there first and leave me with little or nothing at all, but I can still ponder and dream. Blackthorn or sloe bushes are also ideal for hedging, and being a bit prickly I imagine they’ll make a good barrier that will dissuade any potential poultry escapees. Plus, they are fairly fast growing, which is always a bonus. So into the online shopping cart went the sloe bushes. I also ordered some veg seeds, but more on those another time.
Now is an ideal time for planting out trees and bushes, so I thought I’d also order in a cobnut tree ‘Webb’s Prize Cobnut‘
I’ve wanted a cobnut (hazelnut) tree for quite a long time. Not only can you enjoy the nuts, but the cobnut also provides useful straight poles for the garden. Rich’s parents have some small cobnut saplings, so I intend to plant a few together and do some micro-coppicing for kindling and various and assorted uses around the Smallest Smallholding; plant stakes, bean poles and suchlike.
I put my order in on Wednesday evening, and by Friday lunchtime my order had arrived. For an impatient person like me, this was brilliant — just in time for the weekend. It was (please forgive the inane analogy) as if Christmas had come early. I love receiving parcels, and this one was pretty big. The blackthorn bushes were bare root, as was the cobnut, pruned and basically ready to go. I’m still no expert on pruning, I tend to make it up as I go along and hope for the best. So for me, the fact that the nursery had done it all for me was good news. The nursery had also sent me a few pamphlets with extensive amounts of information and planting advice on the items I’d ordered, which is always welcome. I’m on a constant learning curve and am always sponging up scraps of knowledge.
Because I feel like I’ve missed out a bit with my growing exploits this year, I was keen to get going. So yesterday afternoon, I soaked the bare roots of the bushes for just under half an hour before planting out. I’m not sure where the cobnut will go exactly, so I’ve just heeled that in for now. The sloe bushes have been planted in at intervals about 2ft apart, and I’m so looking forward to watching them grow next year. Even more excited at the prospect of sloe gin, although it’ll be a while before I can enjoy the fruits of my blackthorn bushes’ labours – what is it they say? Good things come to those who wait!