We planted two hedges, one of Hornbeam and the other of Beech. The plants were bare rooted and cost very little each to buy. The Hornbeam hedge was set out in two staggered rows set about 450mm apart and each plant was spaced a yard apart from its neighbour. It was a long run of a hedge, so we had turned the soil to about 300mm deep and feathered the surface. The second was a single line of Beech prepared in the same way but planted at 1m centres. We have a few extra plants which we will grow in our reserve border in case we have any failures to make good next winter.
It had rained during the night and the soil was very sticky and heavy and we often had to stop and clean the cloying mud from our heavy spades. In the old days, gardeners would carve a “dolly” or “little man”, a small sharp spade made of box wood, which was tucked into the string worn round the calf to prevent the trousers riding up, and so preventing the possibility of soil getting into the boot. They could then reach for the dolly, clean the spade and carry on. Foremen, referred to the dolly as a “prolonger”, as it made any digging a longer job than they thought necessary. I think our experience was that it would have been useful today to have such a handy tool.
We planted a couple of new apple trees which we will try to train as espaliers. We cut out turves and turned them up-side down as we lifted them. Then we dug out a trench about 300mm deep. We chopped in the inverted turves into the trench and then refilled with the soil. The two apple trees were chosen because they were the least conducive to be trained into bilateral cordons or step-overs. They were a but leggy with rather random bud break, but last autumn we had notched promising buds and nicked badly placed buds. An arced cut above a bud is known as a notch and this prevents that bud being inhibited from growing by the plant hormone Auxin, which is made in the leaders and moves down the plant, establishing apical dominance. A nick is an arced cut under a bud to reduce the amount of nutrient reaching the new shoot, thus inhibiting or slowing down its growth. Because the winter has thus far, been so mild, some of the buds are swelling and some are even now, breaking. Some of the various cuts have worked, but some have not, or at least not yet. But with diligence and possibly by attrition, we will get the bud-break where we need it.