Cruella (my wife) has been in a frenzy preparing for the Christmas visit of our idiot son. To most people this would just mean tidying the house and preparing his room, but to Cruella there is so much more to do. First she drew concentric chalk circles around the outside of our house, then she sacrificed a number of small animals, before finally howling at the moon and calling curses down upon the head of anyone who hindered his passage to Spain. I bought him a six pack of beer!
But perhaps most worrying is that Cruella, in her preparations for the idiot, has conjured up the Devil Peacock again (see picture below). He sits on our roof and keeps a ghoulish vigil, squawking and shrieking if anyone approaches the house; and his eyes glow red at night. Anyway, because of all this activity I have been able to keep under the radar and get on with quite a lot of gardening.
17th December 2021. Things I have been doing lately:
Planting out seedlings. You need to get any seedlings you have been growing on into the ground very soon. Here in the Costa Blanca we do not get very cold winters and usually we have no frost. However, all seedlings will benefit from getting into the ground whilst the soil is still warm. If you remember from previous posts I collected some 120 Osteospermum and Marguerite daisy self sown seedlings and potted them up. I kept them out of full sun whilst they were taking root and then brought them out into the sun for a week before planting out.
The first photo below shows the newly pricked out seedlings resting on the potting bench, whilst the second shows them luxuriating in the sun before being planted out. Click on each photo for a larger view.
Before you plant out your new seedlings make sure that you thoroughly hoe the planting bed to remove all weeds; don’t be shy about getting your hands into the soil to clear out any stubborn weed seedlings. Also as you plant each individual seedling I like to fill the planting hole with water, followed by a prayer to give the little chaps a fighting chance. The photos below show me ready to begin hoeing, then my famous hand in the soil shot, and finally a healthy well rooted seedling ready to get growing. Click on each photo for a larger view.
In addition to planting out the Osteospermums I also planted out some Chlorophytum comosum, usually called spider plant. This under rated plant is very easy to grow and provides some nice winter variegated colour to shady areas. The photos below show the baby spiders ready to go. The second photo shows the strong root growth these plant can put on in just over a month. Click on each photo for a larger view.
Normally the final job for me when I plant out seedlings is to put up canes to protect them from my rampaging Labradors, Nero and Tango. But as regular readers of this blog will know Nero died not long ago and poor old Tango is blind and lonely. Anyway, I put up the canes just to make Tango feel better, I even kicked over a few canes and pretended to trample some seedlings to perk him up, but I am afraid his rampaging days are over. The photos below show my normally tempting cane structure and the sad, lonely, blind Tango resisting my encouragement. Click on each photo for a larger view.
Pruning grapevines. Grapevines can be safely cutback now as the sap will have stopped rising and most of the leaves will be off. You can, if you wish, wait till every last leaf drops, but if you do, you are in danger of cutting off the new growth as it tends to come through very quickly. To prune grapevines you simply need to cut off all the side growing shoots to leave a strong thickening stem. The photos below show my grapevines prior to pruning and in their newly pruned state. Don’t forget you can use the pruned side shoots as cuttings and they will take very well this time of year. Click on each photo for a larger view.
Pruning Fig trees. By now all the sap from your fig tree will have been drawn back into the roots and most of the leaves will have fallen. One of the benefits of pruning now is that you will not have the corrosive fig sap weeping out of every cut as this can cause burns to those of us with delicate skin. You may be interested to know that Cruella (my wife) uses fig sap as face cream; she swears by its efficacy in maintaining her complexion by keeping her deathly pallor and deepening her wrinkles.
I have two fig trees one of which is an espalier. Now the problem with fig trees is that they are robust and are capable of tremendous growth once they are mature. Left unpruned this can leave you with a behemoth of a tree that dominates your garden, darkens your house, and yet has unreachable fruit. When pruning mature figs you have to be brave and prune severely to an open structure that you maintain each year. As figs fruit on new growth you have to make sure that you do not cut branches back to the trunk or there will be no fruit on that branch.
The photos below show my trees before and after pruning. I know it looks drastic but they will be fine. Click on each photo for a larger view.
Now normally I would wheelbarrow away the prunings to shred them down by my shed, but in a burst of inspiration I decided to bring the shredder to them – this is how the wheel was invented and civilisation develops. In addition, in a further burst of inspiration I decided to place the shredded branches around my fig trees as a mulch. Now I have to give you a warning here, in case you rush headlong to copy my new approach. Normally, I would compost shreddings before placing them on soil as I have always believed that fresh tree shreddings would impart too much nitrogen to the soil. But hey ho, you only live once I’m going for it, call me crazy, but I’m just that kind of guy. The photos below show history being made. You might want to cut these out and save them to show to your grandchildren. Click on each photo for a larger view.