Having spent so long doing up my Czech house I am at last turning my attention to our enormous garden. Well, I say 'garden' it's really an overgrown orchard - very overgrown. As long-standing readers of my blog will be aware I started the hard process of mowing some of it a few years ago. At first my only option was to hand scythe, but each year I have managed to get more of it to a point where my electric strimmer can take some of the strain off my shoulder and arm muscles.
The improvement is such that this year I decided to start planting some shrubs. My friend Hannah had always urged me to improve the garden. She was a great one for planting decorative shrubs and plants with edible fruit (very Czech) and what little was left of her busy life was spent gardening, including removing snails from her strawberries and throwing them over the fence. I pointed out that that was all very well if you are in the Czech Republic all the time, but I am not and so the battle against pests would be lost almost as soon as it began. Now with Hannah's death I found myself rethinking my position. With a large population of snails and ground riddled with mouseholes it was a no to strawberries and runnerbeans but more substantial shrubs might be possible.
I returned from the garden centre (Czech garden centres are very different to English ones - less flowers and more trees) with an aronia bush, two sea buckthorns (male and female to allow pollination), an edible amelianchior, raspberries, thornless blackberry and cranberry. After a day's digging the shrubs stood proud on a bank half way down the garden, where the blossom and bright fruit will be visible from the window by my desk.
A few days later I inspected the plants to discover that someone/thing had chewed the bark of my aronia. This was unexpected - snail damage on the raspberries yes, rabbit attack on the blackberry - but not a large shrub. Look closely at the photo above and you will see the culprit - a deer. I knew they regularly strip my plum trees of fruit on the lower branches, but I was not expecting them to eat bark in early summer. During the day I never see them in the orchard (this photo was taken at dawn from the window hence the lack of clarity), but I do see their droppings.
I checked the internet and discovered that the answer to this problem was human urine. Apparently they are scared off by human scent. So urine it was. I leave you to work out how it was delivered to the aronia bush!