19 July 2014

my ivy - and other weed - problem

This post is for my FB Vege Garden group friends, I didn't think I should hi-jack the page with a non-vege posting of this scale.

I have two major problems in my garden, ivy and a weed I didn't know in NZ, but here it is referred to as wild fig. It is not a fruiting plant, but looking at my real fig tree I can see where the name might have come from.

Stone walls here are made with the dry stone method, now a dying art. Looking at one of these walls in good condition (ie, not attacked by the two plants mentioned above) you simply can't tell if the wall has been there for three hundred years or one thousand years. They are quite amazing. (This town was established in 904AD, so I don't jest about 1000 years).

My terraces have such walls. This is where the bigger problem becomes my problem. I have sections of wall (some shared responsibility with neighbours) where the two plants have taken hold. Local lore is that the roots of these plants are needed to hold the rocks together, but the same person who told you that could well tell you, the following day, that the plants are destroying the wall.

This conflicting advice seems to me to have come from nature. We have massive rocky hills (mountains in fact) around us. The trees and shrubs to grow into these. Then fire comes through, too often and too close for comfort, and the vegetation is destroyed. The next wet and soggy winter the roots of the plants rot away, and the rocks loosen. Boulders come tumbling down when the weather is stormy, occasionally bouncing onto houses, cars, and on one occasion killing a young man. Luckily all these danger areas now have huge wire nets and fencing to protect us. (I remember, prior to this, writing to my family that should I be squashed by one of these boulders while out walking to just think "she was happy to go this way"). I've always had a "thing" about stones and rocks, love them!

Anyway, my observation is that, properly maintained as in free from intrusive plants, these dry-construction walls do literally look unchanged for centuries. The evil intrusive weeds must go!

This post is mostly in response to Helen who asked me for a photo of my stone wall on the vege gardening page where I asked for advice about getting rid of ivy.

Helen, here are the photos.

The wall in un-abused state; I have no idea how old it is, but as a rough guide for guesses, the house was last renovated in 1911. But it could be 500 years old too, like the stonework in the cantina of my ground floor apartment.

The former ivy hedge, taken out in 2007 and now regularly assaulted by me with mixes of vinegar and salt, boiling water, and hot oil. It was about five feet high and ran along the green wire fence. Dad spent days taking it out, and I have been attacking re-growth ever since. I think (scared to more than whisper) I am winning on this one. But as you can see, this photo taken from my place looking into the neighbouring property, I have an on-going battle here.
The wild fig-tree type plants that are the bane of my gardening life: these are at the top of the wall I am concerned about now. Note the result of the previous owner's philosophy that the wall will crumble if you kill the plant: that's a huge trunk up there, not a rock.
The ivy, starting in my neighbour's garden, and heading down to become my problem:
Work in progress this morning: (that's my open studio window up the top).
Another part of the boundary between us, this time I can reach quite safely without being afraid of toppling over. The "garden" above is his, the ladder down in mine...
His garden after I employed someone to clear our "mutual" pathway - seems that the only one who cares about maintenance is you-know-who... it was literally impassable yesterday and the last one to clean it was me, a few months ago (before the winter, probably). Things do grow incredibly fast, and we are having "tropical" storms every day, after temperatures in the early 30s. What looks like lovely soil is actually all the richly composted tree leaves on a concrete path. The tree was badly damaged in storms some time ago.
My olive trees, just to give you some context. The brown on the trunks is a mixture fighting some virus our hillside contracted a couple of years ago. This year I have taken drastic measures and wont pick this October/November, it's a year off after heavy pruning.
My folly, between my house and garden. Love my steps. They are solid, took two men days to construct, cost me an arm and a leg, then AFTER they were finished my neighbour told me that they would end up down the valley because I hadn't anchored them with iron into the rocks... sigh!
Looking down at the task in hand from my studio:
More ancient stones out my kitchen window - this is where the village women did the washing, and for hundreds of years was the village water supply.
And the village I love so much, view from my studio again.

And to give a wider context for those wonderful rocky walls, here is a late evening photo from a few days ago (after the evening storm had drenched everything - are we in the tropics now?) Not the best photo of the village, but the easiest for me to locate. I am on the lower edge of the village. 

Today I am grateful for a willing helper. 

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