The dogs were not that impressed with our gardening chores last weekend.
For a start, we had the remains of a silk tree that had grown too large for its site scattered across the lawn that's normally their play area.
I'm always reluctant to get rid of trees but this one, while a perfect size when we bought the property, had doubled in height since then and become too big for the space it had been planted in.
To add to the dogs' woes, while the other half and I created the mess by dismembering the tree branch by branch, using a rope to make sure the branches "fell" in the right place and didn't damage us, the fence, our other trees or anything in the neighbour's garden, I confined the canine members of the household to their run. I figured there were plenty of tripping hazards on the lawn already without adding two German shepherds to the mix, particularly given that the she-wolf's idea of assisting in the garden consists mostly of offering moral support from very close quarters.
What do you do when you end up with garden debris and prunings? It really depends how big your garden is and what you do with that space. Unless the plant is invasive (like convolvulus) or diseased, in which case I dispose of it off-site, we use all our prunings. Larger pieces are cut up for firewood and kindling (amazing how much time spent chopping kindling on a cold night is saved this way). Smaller pieces are mulched then either layered alternately with soft green waste like weeds or leafy prunings into the compost bin or scattered in the orchard and covered in lawn clippings to add to the mulch there.
Two things to remember if using lawn clippings - don't use them if you use weed killer on your lawn and don't layer the clippings too thickly or they'll turn into the kind of slimy mess your dogs will love but you won't - partly because your dogs love it but also because if you stand on it unexpectedly it has a tendency to slide sideways and take your feet out from under you. I speak from experience in both instances.
The mulch in the orchard helps keep down weeds, but last weekend I did spend some time pulling out large clumps of grass that had sneakily grown when I wasn't looking. That's OK; I added them to the mulch as well. After pulling them out, I turned them upside down so the roots dry out.
We have a low fence around the orchard and I grow comfrey along the length of this fence. It's growing fast and I slash it back every few weeks. I add the leaves to the compost, the orchard mulch and the barrel of comfrey tea I use as a liquid fertiliser.
When talking to gardeners about comfrey, some find it really useful, while others are concerned that it can take over a plot. I'm sure it could if you left it to its own devices, but because I grow mine as a fertilizer crop, I harvest it hard all summer, which keeps it under control.
The dogs were very pleased when we'd finished the mulching and games with the tennis ball could resume without obstacles. However, I suspect I'll be displeasing them again next weekend - while there's still plenty to do in our garden, chores will be left unattended at my home and in many Marlborough gardens. Other local gardens will be preened to perfection - those will be the venues on the annual Hunters' Garden Marlborough garden tours.
The unattended gardens won't just belong to the gardeners who can't resist taking a peek at others' gardening visions and ideas through the tours and workshops on offer, not to mention the myriad of garden-focused stalls at the fete, but also to the volunteers who work so hard to make this event happen.
Here's hoping for a fine weekend so everyone can enjoy the event.
What to grow in November: Garden guides recommend a long list at this time of year, including basil, beetroot, broccoli, capsicums, chilli, Chinese cabbage, climbing and dwarf beans, cucumbers, eggplant, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, lettuce and salad greens
The Marlborough Express