One thing that always overwhelms me is tidying up the berry/shade house.
I think what really trips me up is it’s not one job: it’s a thousand little jobs. And they don’t organise themselves neatly. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and distracted.
There’s plants that need weeding and taking care of; weeds to pull out of the house itself; edges to resecure; pots everywhere; old plant labels; dead plants; plant trays; bags of soil mix; plants that need new pots. Everywhere your eye lands, you’re looking at 10 jobs.
So I’d start, then get overwhelmed. One job would lead to another job which would take me somewhere different and I just wouldn’t come back. I might start tidying this spot 10 times before actually managing to succeed – and then a year later I always seem to end up back at the exact same place.
But our berries are flowering now. It looks like they’re going to do well. I’d quite like to actually get in there to harvest them before the birds do. I needed to fix the bird net and took this as a chance to force myself to do all the other jobs as well. Between weather and other commitments, it took two weeks.
Before I began, I took a lot of photos. Honestly, it was a mess.
So much was going to need moving just to secure the bird net, it made sense to just commit to the entire job.
Making a start
I began at the entrance and began working my way down the left side.
I removed one or two plants at a time, de-potting and discarding the dead ones as I went. Each plant was weeded, then sorted into ‘desperately needs a bigger pot’ or ‘ready to go back’ and placed aside.
On the outside of the berry house, we have a ‘plant holding zone’ – the place where most of our plants live until they find a home in the ground. To get all the way down the left side, I needed to do both the plants on the inside of the berry house, and in the holding zone.
There are some actually dangerous plants in there with some mean spikes, like prickly pear and red pineapple. It took time.
But slowly I’d clear a meter or two. Then I weeded the floor and tied the sides down bit-by-bit.
The rain interrupted a lot, so there were many breaks. It took a day and a half before the left side was done.
Potty for pots
Because the right side is basically berries, the inside didn’t take long at all. The house was empty, but we keep our pots and have our potting bench on the other side. And that was a right mess. The pot collection was next.
I’m notorious for holding onto pots until they’re basically unusable. I do recycle them when they’re truly done, but much like my Popa used to come back from the dump with more than he left with; I come home with more pots from the pot recycling bin then I take. How many 1 litre pots do I need? All of them.
So simply sorting out my collection of pots took the rest of the second day. It’s nice to be able to find and access what I need now though.
Was I done yet? Well, at this point I could see I was over half-way. But no, no I wasn’t done yet.
The lower shelf of our potting bench had broken, so we took this opportunity to make some repairs. Richard fixed the bench and I hit the weeds with my Niwashi.
With the potting bench and piles of pots out of the way, I could re-secure the right side of the bird net.
Now we were cooking on gas.
I dragged the potting bench back into place and started the next stage of the job – repotting.
This is the thing that distracts me every time I try to clean this area. It’s a big, monotonous job. Avoiding repotting is precisely why I began planting out our eastern hillside and finally built my succulent garden – it’s cheaper and faster to put plants in the ground than it is to keep putting them into bigger and bigger pots!
I’ve planted out, swapped, or given away almost 250 plants from the berry house and plant holding zone this year. But even with that mammoth effort, I still had a few to do.
Thankfully, some kind soul had organised my pots. My potting bench was clear and fixed. There were bags of potting mix that either needed using or moving, so I opted to use it.
I kept potting them up until I ran out of potting mix. That took the rest of of Day 3 and part of Day 4.
I’d come this far. To finish the job, I needed to finish clearing out the ‘holding zone’, do a bit of maintenance, then start lugging everything back in again.
More weeding, and more re-potting (I restocked on the potting mix) followed. I fixed the plastic flooring where it had split. Then I put everything back where it belonged. I’m skipping the details, but it took another three days.
Finally, I closed up the berry house with a ‘door’. This is just another piece of bird net to keep the birds and dogs out. It’ll protect our berries from being eaten before we’re ready to pick them.
The biggest job
It’s really hard to explain how much this job messes with my head – because it’s so much and because it’s so constant. But it’s done – at least for now.
I do think I’m getting closer to having the place under more control on a more permanent basis. I’ve learned plants need planting. In the ground. Keeping them in pots in the ‘holding zone’ forever while I make up my mind isn’t remotely sustainable!
While it’s OK to grow some things on (there are a few plants I divide and re-pot each year as I’m trying to get up to the number I want for minimal cost), repotting them forever while I work out what to do with them needs to stop. I’m trying.
Through a range of disasters and fixes, this place has slowly evolved from a shade/hot house to a shade/berry house. We installed the holding zone to extend it, and kind of just worked around the chaos for three years.
But maybe we’re getting closer. Perhaps we’ll install some irrigation this summer. Maybe I’ll be able to stay on top of the weeds for once. But also maybe not. For now, I’m just hoping for some berries.