Monday, 11 June 2012

String theory

According to some clever people – even more exceedingly clever people than Mr Kipling's cakes are good – string theory could well be the Theory For Everything.

Now I don't know whether it equals 42, but having taken a glance into mechanics of the quantum variety a few decades ago, I shall not be delving far into something that the likes of Stephen Hawking comprehends.

String theory, as far as I'm now concerned, is about how much of the green gardening twine is actually needed to give my peas and beans a helping hand.

After Friday's worries about whether I'd be able to rise to the task of erection - stop sniggering at the back - it came surprisingly easy.

Eight, six-foot bamboo canes, spaced (reasonably) evenly, four on either side of the tender plants, were pushed well into the ground and then tied into an inverted ‘v’ across them, with two extra placed between the pairs at each end.

Another cane was then placed across the top and tied into place.

All well and good. Then followed the slightly more complex stuff. There needed to be three rows of sting all around my construction, at different heights, so that the plants can grasp something as they haul themselves nearer the sky.

You can't to it in one go – or at least, I couldn’t. But somehow, in what turned out to be a surprisingly decent weekend as far as the weather was concerned, I managed it.

I had accompaniment: sound testing for a mini festival in the park behind us. A Nandos ‘gignic’, which apparently combined music and a piri piri picnic.

Given the wind, yet more string was required to gently tie all the beans to thin, wooden stakes to help them before they can reach the first row of string. The three chili plants each got a stake too.

It was The Other Half who suggested using a number of wooden shelves – spare ones from a unit – to create a ‘path’ on the bit of carpark land I’m now slowly converting.

They’ve been spare for so long, propped up in a corner, that it seemed likely that we didn’t really need seven and could make do with a single one.

And then there were the snail inns. Three were part buried alongside the beans and peas, then given a good glug of cheap Polish beer, and lidded.

The policy has worked. Well, there’s at least one deceased gastropod in the one that I part buried in the pot with the lemon tree.

I assume it had gone for a drink after munching the adjoining basil – and not made it out again. I allowed myself a little sense of rejoicing.

And the great learning experience that is gardening continues in other ways.

After the baby salad leaves were utterly destroyed by a snail just over a week ago, I had sown some new ones.

And at the same time, with the radish crop struggling to show much interest in producing anything edible, I’d sown more of them too.

In both cases, seedlings are popping their heads into the (grey) light of day.

The weather may be far from seasonally normal, but both are doing better than the previous sowings. I am assuming that ‘sow from April and harvest in four weeks’ doesn’t mean much if you then have a late spring that is as unseasonal as a heatwave in March.

At least I now comprehend that things only really grow when the soil is warm enough – and the increase in tiny weeds appearing is indicative of just that.

Mind, I'm still getting over the speed with which other things DO grow – the beans are just one example. Goodness knows where they'd be if we'd had a more 'normal' spring.

The nasturtiums seem to have been unhindered by the weather, racing to trail over the edges of the pot with that they share with the vine.

And now they are flowering; opening out petals of searingly vivid orange and yellow and even deep red.

Which brings us neatly to another part of that learning. Since so many seedlings look the same at first, you can’t just assume that everything is a weed. You have to wait a little.

And watering: even when there’s been so much rain that it makes the drought even more risible than previously, there are still plants that need some extra help – not least because, when it’s bouncing down, it’s bouncing right off the soil again.

Then there’s the fact that plants in pots need more water than their counterparts in a bed.

So I am learning to look at my plants – and to see how they’re looking. And to check the soil to see if it’s still moist.

If the garden doesn’t quite fit into a general theory of everything, and if it isn't quite quantum mechanics, there seems to be plenty enough string involved to keep my mind busy.

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