After a week's delay I was finally able to get to my house and prepare a small area of the garden for some roses I want to plant. For a few minutes I was pleased at the quality of the soil - then I hit rock. At least that's what I thought, until I realised that I was hitting hard, compacted clay. It made my digging very heavy going. It took me a couple of hours, five bags of composted cow manure and about 4kg of gypsum, but I think (I hope!) that I've done enough to give my roses a suitable home.
I topped it all off with a good thick layer of sugar cane mulch to stop weeds from overtaking before I can get back to it. However, I suspect there will be another dry spell and a few days of gusty wind, and I'll find the mulch blown everywhere except on the garden where I put it. I guess that's a problem with long-distance gardening (but hopefully long distance for only a few more weeks).
It seems like someone in their wisdom had tried to improve the drainage problems caused by the heavy clay - by adding copious amounts of pebbles - which didn't help. It was like digging into half-set concrete.
Considering the area I worked was only about 5 or 6 square metres, I had a very significant reality check regarding the work I had dreamed of doing around the garden - now I have the rest of the 900 square metres to look forward to. But I'm sure I'll see the benefit and get a little encouragement, when the first roses have been planted and start to thrive.
Unfortunately this has been an easy task in comparison to some that I face. There are several old tree stumps that need to be removed. I also have a tall unidentified deciduous bushy thing beside the house that I want to remove - it's right next to the place I want to plant one of my Red Pierres - but its trunk at ground level is about 30cm diameter. At least it divides into significantly smaller branches not too far above ground level. I had enough fun removing two metres of wisteria roots from the area I dug on the weekend, so I'm not really looking forward to dealing with the unknown monstrosity.