Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Planting a tree and rejuvenating an Oleander - 27 October 2015

For our October garden group meeting we thought to go back to some basic gardening techniques. Françoise has just bought a house on a large estate very near Monastère St. Joseph in Cotignac.  The garden has been very neglected over the last few years, all plants are overgrown, so a wonderful place for us to practice our gardening skills.

As our first project we decided to plant some trees.  Françoise had two plum trees that needed planting.  We decided to dig the holes a few days before the garden group meeting as digging holes here in the Var can bring some surprises.

The first hole went fairly easy. Gabrielle advised to keep the grass we dug up and the good earth just underneath the grass to one side, to use later on. The soil looked like sand, but it turned out to be sandy loam, not very fertile. We dug a hole double the width of the pot and slightly deeper than the pot that contained the plum.

The second hole was the problem, we were blocked by a large stone.  We just had to manoeuvre the stone out of the way.  Easier said then done.  In the end it became a team effort.  Sue, always so practical, found a metal stake and whilst we were trying to lift the stone with our pickaxes, she managed to place the stake under the stone. We heaved again with the pickaxes and placed some stones underneath the large stone, in this fashion we slowly raised the boulder. We continued till we finally managed to get it out and what a large stone it turned out to be.

At the meeting Gabrielle showed us 2 pots, one filled just with earth, the other filled with a mixture of earth and stones. Both pots received the same amount of water.  In the pot where there was just earth, the water drained away very quickly, in the other pot with a mixture of stones and earth the water stayed in the pot much longer.  Whenever we try and plant something in our area, invariably we come across stones.  Most of us remove the stones and use just the earth.  That is exactly what we must not do, when filling up after planting something, the soil should have stones and earth in it.  In our hot summer climate when we water we need the water to stay around the plant as long as possible and to achieve this a mixture of stones and earth is the answer.

Planting the trees:

  • We filled up the hole with water. We waited before planting till the water drained away.

  • As the soil was so poor, Gabrielle suggested to use leaf mold to improve the structure of the soil. 

  • Followed by a layer of compost.
  • Then the tree.
  • Followed by more compost and some stones.
  • Followed by a handful of dried blood and a handful of bone meal.

  • More compost, original soil that we kept aside, stones and Gabrielle's home made compost till the tree was planted at the right depth.
  • To give it an extra boost several handfuls of sheep manure were spread around the tree.

  • The grass we had put aside was then put around the tree to give it a natural look.
  • More water was given to the tree.
Rejuvenating an oleander:

After the tree planting Gabrielle showed what she normally does when rejuvenating a very old, shabby oleander.  She cut it down to about a foot away from the earth.  Weeds and rubbish need to be cleared from between the stalks and any weak shoot must be removed.  In spring it will sprout again.

Just as we were finishing the rain came down. We retired to the warmth of Françoise's kitchen and living room where she had lit two fires.  Enough room at the table for all of us to sit down. It was lovely warm and cozy. We were treated to a variety of cakes, biscuits, coffee and tea.



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