…and you know it’s hard to pretend…
(With apologies to Supertramp)
I’ve been getting a little fed up of all the wet weather recently. I don’t mind being out in the rain – providing I have the appropriate clothes on – but even I am not so excited by my allotment that I am going try and work the soil when it is REALLY wet. So I have been a frustrated gardener. I did spend some time doing a thorough seed audit, and then putting together an order for seeds to go to the allotment secretary. And I do now have a fairly detailed plan of how much of what to plant where. Assuming the weather ever allows me to get up there and prepare the beds… But I was beginning to get cabin fever.
Fortunately for me there was one job that could be done even in steady drizzle – raising the crowns of the silver birches. This really has to be done in winter, before the sap starts rising, as birches tend to bleed a lot and this can weaken the tree and leave it prone to disease. So, wrapped up in waterproofs I grabbed my pruning saw and assessed the job at hand.
My trees are still relatively young and most of the branches are quite slender, making the job rather easier than Sara recently tackled over at Hillwards. By raising the crown I get more of the lovely straight trunk to admire, and avoid the lower branches fouling the fence or other trees and shrubs. Even quite slender branches can be surprisingly heavy, and it is difficult to control the saw well and support the branch as it starts to sag away from the cut. To avoid damage to the trunk itself I always take out the bulk of the weight first. I make a cut from underneath the branch about a foot from the trunk, and then a downwards cut about 5cm further away from the trunk.
The first cut – the undercut – provides a break point, stopping the bark from tearing all the way to the trunk if the branch breaks before the second cut is completed. This method allows me to deal with most tree pruning without having to enlist help. Strangely enough the other people in the household tend to be less than keen to join me in gardening chores when it is raining…
The final cut is made close to the trunk but preserves the branch collar – the ring of slight swelling at its base. The branch collar is the most active site of the tree’s natural defences, so leaving it intact gives the tree a better chance of healing from the wound. I sometimes find it hard to tell just where the collar begins and ends, so if I can’t see it I start the cut 2-3cm (0.5″ – 1″) away from the crotch and angle it slightly outwards.
The leftovers are currently creating a trip hazard on the patio. The thicker pieces will be sawn into lengths of around a foot (30cm), and taken to the allotment to create a small log pile as a refuge for insects and other wildlife. I already have one in the back garden, by the compost bins. The smaller twiggy bits will go through the shredder and then either to the compost heap or to the allotment again for use on paths or around my “under development” seating area.
I love being outside, even in poor weather, but I would love to see the sun again soon. I want the soil at the allotment to dry out enough to work, and to be able to walk home without being two inches taller due to the mud on the bottom of my boots. The weather forecast keeps promising me a sunny day and then rescinding that promise in the middle of the night. I wake up to find that wretched rain icon again, and dull damp weather outside. A case of “sun yesterday, sun tomorrow, but never sun today”.
Thank goodness for Violas, and the welcome sight of snowdrops pushing their way up through the leaf litter.