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Diary Article 11.

The staff and volunteers have had a big drive to try and get the grounds of the centre tidied up a bit in preparation for the Spring, when hopefully they will get a steady flow of visitors to the café for cups of coffee and their delicious cakes and also to encourage more people in to the nursery side of the charity where they might buy some plants. The other week I cleared a patch of brambles from the bottom of the Orchard and some from amongst a rather large rose hedge further down, but I only filled a couple of those big bucket trug things. The next week that I went I saw a huge pile of rubbish waiting for me to burn that was 100 times as much as I had cleared and was mostly made up of grass and brambles!

The bank of waste soil that I tidied up and levelled off a couple of months ago is getting nicely planted now. Admittedly they are still small, but over the last few weeks I have put in a few; - hardy Cyclamen, garden Primulas and a Drumstick one, an assortment of ferns, a couple of Frillaries that I divided and a white Hellebore. They are all woodland type plants that won’t mind a mulch of leaves falling on them every Autumn and they will happily poke their noses through the leaf litter every Spring. With any luck some of them will set seed and slowly spread around the whole woodland walk.

A few months ago a car went through a hedge on one of the fields completely destroying a 20 foot length of it. The staff had erected some good, strong, wooden fence to keep the cattle safe, but they had intended to re-plant the stretch of hedge and not got round to it yet. However, I got there first with some young Blackthorns and Hazels that had been in pots for a while and that I had left over from something else I had done a year or two earlier. The torn up hawthorn hedging had been left strewn against the new fence on the road side to act as a barrier for interfering busy bodies, so it was a bit of a battle to get my little trees planted in the right place. Well wrapped up in my thick sweater and old coat with my heavy-duty gauntlet type gloves on I managed it without getting too many thorns in me. If the trees take, they may produce not only some Hazel nuts for picking, but the Blackthorns may produce some of their plum type fruits called Sloes that are used to make Sloe Gin! When they new what I had planted one or two of the staff seemed to suddenly show a lot more interest in what I was doing!

Other plants that I have put in around the site include a couple of smallish spotted Laurel bushes that were unwanted and had been dug up from home to make space for my red Hazel that I planted in my garden. Also there was a little gap in a small Holly hedge behind one of the benches next to a path, so as I had two nice little Hollies growing at home in pots, I planted those as well.

With my efforts to make more of the Orchard area I persuaded David to let me dig up an unknown bush that was out of place and replace it with a Red Almond tree I had in a pot at home. I had bought it some time ago on a whim and found, that because of the rootstock it was grafted onto, it would cross-pollinate with a Peach, if there was one present and that would make the Almonds taste bitter. Consequently, having a Peach tree at home, I hadn’t known where to plant it, so it made a nice little donation to Oak Tree. Another tree that I had nowhere to plant was the Asian Pear tree that I had grown from a pip found in a shop bought fruit. The tree was nearly 8 feet tall and the huge pot it was in was another 3 feet tall, so I had asked the centre to arrange to collect it for me, but mechanical problems with the van meant that I had to transport it myself in my car. Fortunately the main stem was very whippy enabling me to bend it and feed it round the inside of the car without too much effort. The pot was another matter and when I pushed the front seat right back it filled the passenger well completely right up to the top of the dashboard! Nevertheless, I got it their without incident and David told me to plant it in a space by the café where everyone would see it. It was Mothers day the day after the Saturday when I planted it and the café was almost fully booked, so I made a real effort to plant it as tidily as I possibly could without making any mess at all on the grass or adjacent path. After I had finished several people came up to me to ask what it was and seemed quite interested, so I think I will have to persuade someone to start labelling all the special trees with some sort of little plaques. Not only will members of the public be able to see what the trees are then, but so will the youngsters who attend the site and it could lead them into a greater interest in plants and nature generally.

Before my planting day was over I went round with a little tub of pelleted Growmore plant food and sprinkled a little round each of the plants to give them a bit of a start in their search for nutrients until their roots get established. It is a slow release feed, so any rain will slowly wash it in gradually releasing its goodness over many weeks. While working in the orchard I also removed some more tree stakes that had started to strangle the trees that they were supposed to be helping.

In other news about Oak Tree Farm Rural Project, the frost damaged cold frame has already been rebuilt and they have started looking round for a source of fertilized eggs to replace the Chickens that were sold a few weeks ago. The bedding plant side of the Charity is starting to come to life as well, because they are awaiting several orders for thousands of young bedding plant plugs and seedlings to be delivered. The first wave of the more hardy varieties of plants is due any day, with more deliveries to follow in the next week or two. These will of course be grown on mainly for their big plant sales open day in May.

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