The NBN and me

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Part of the trench dug to lay the cable

What does the NBN have to do with gardening, you might well ask? I certainly never connected the two until about a month ago, when the NBN men, mattocks at the ready, arrived on our doorstep one day to inform us that they were about to dig up our long battleaxe driveway and some garden beds in order to lay the copper wire that was going to connect us to the National Broadband Network! Our site had been assessed by seven other teams, apparently, and classified as 'too hard'. The eighth team was the one that did those difficult sites. I turned ashen-faced as they pointed out the garden areas that were about to be destroyed. Some of my prize plants were right in the pathway of the proposed trench, which had to be about 30 cm wide, even though the conduit for the cable was itself quite narrow.

Several specimens of Salvia Mesa Azure had to be dug up

'Don't worry about those plants: we will dig them up and replant them!', they cheerfully assured me. However, on seeing their first effort at doing this: plants roughly dug up with little soil around the roots and cast aside in the sun (presumably for the duration of the digging, which ended up taking two full days), I grimly grabbed my spade, a bag of potting mix and some large pots and feverishly began to dig up the plants that were in the firing line.

My clump of Eucharis lilies had to be dug up

It's not easy to remember all the usual recommendations for moving plants, when under pressure. It was totally the wrong time of year to be doing this, for a start: a hot day in early summer. I normally wouldn't dream of moving plants except in autumn or winter. But I just couldn't let them die at the hands of these seemingly merciless men, who seemed to just regard them all as 'green stuff' that was in the way. The plants included a lovely pink hibiscus, grown from a stolen cutting, which was just starting to fill out into a proper shrub; a couple of compact Salvia 'Mesa Azure' that had just started to bloom; an unusual rose-coloured Abutilon from a friend's garden, which had just appeared as a self-seedling there; my precious Eucharis lilies that had finally begun to come good after I decided to plant them in the ground rather than keep them in a pot; some bromeliads; and a number of lovely rhizomatous Begonia, still in full flower.

The strategy I settled on was to take as much of the root ball as I possibly could of each plant, having watered them first, and placing them into decent-sized pots with good potting mix. Alas, I soon ran out of both these things and ended up shoving my poor plants into any old receptacle I could find, including polystyrene fruit boxes, large plastic storage containers that I normally use for striking cuttings, and finally, in desperation, sturdy plastic bags - and having to resort to homemade compost for the potting medium.

My hibiscus shrouded in a vacuum-seal bag

I made sure I watered each plant thoroughly, adding Seasol to the watering can. I also sprayed the leaves with a very dilute mixture of Seasol and water. To try to maintain humidity around the plants, I placed the smaller pots in some of my other larger plastic containers used for cuttings, and closed the lids. For the bigger plants, I covered them with old plastic dry-cleaning bags or the large vacuum-seal bags used for storing blankets and so on indoors. All the plants were kept in the shade.

The plants looked extremely limp at the time of all these frantic operations. I didn't hold out much hope for any of them, and festered with rage at the whole situation. We didn't even want the NBN!!! However, as the days passed, the plants started to recover their perkiness. I continued vigilantly to water and spray with a Seasol mixture each day. The smaller plants naturally recovered quicker than the bigger shrubs, which I assumed I would lose. I eventually removed the pots from the big storage boxes, having gradually exposed them to more air by moving the lids of the containers aside (and in the case of the larger shrubs, slowly removed the plastic coverings). All have survived, which goes to show that if you ever have a situation like this, it is certainly worth trying to save your plants. Most people won't have these traumas with the NBN, as it was the length of our driveway and our lack of a pre-existing cable TV connection that were the reasons for the whole exercise. And I did feel really sorry for the poor men having to dig the trench all that way, mostly by hand, with mattocks! To their credit, they did their best to skirt around the plants that remained in the garden beds.

An unexpected benefit of the whole saga has been that I was able to rethink the placement of the plants removed (having to avoid where the cable was laid, in any case) and, in the end, they have better spots now, with more room around them - and nicely dug soil, courtesy of the men with their mattocks! A final plus was that one of the men left his safety glasses behind, and since he never came back to claim them, I now have an excellent set of goggles to protect my eyes when knocking those rotten stink bugs off my citrus trees into a bucket of water!

Reader Comments

  • By Linda 2119 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 11 December 2017

    So, at the beginning of summer, in the middle of Party Season, I suddenly decided to rip out the nature strip lawn and create an instant garden with leftover plant material. Surprisingly, with judicious application of Wettasoil and Seasol, everything is looking quite happy. Mind you, the selection is pretty bullet-proof, with mini mondo, liriope, clivia, mini dietes, Hot Lips salvia, Kwanso daylily, agave, agapanthus, sedum and so on, but with daily care (and a little shade) miracles do happen! That is great to hear about that, Linda. Your new garden is roaring ahead! Deirdre

  • By Bren 2540 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 11 December 2017

    I wonder how Seasol works (biologically), or what it actually does. People say it is not a fertilizer, but a kind of tonic. Certainly people recommend it all the time. Is there a substitute for this apparently marvelous product? I only know it is a seaweed product and helps keep plants healthy and resilient; I have only recently started using it, but have friends who swear by it. Will definitely look into it to find out what it actually does! Deirdre

  • By Sue 2074 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 11 December 2017

    What a business. We have them hanging around in the next street and after looking at what they are doing to gardens we are wondering how we will fare. Glad to hear your plants have survived. We are hoping they take a break over January! Yes it will be much better for anyone else with gardens being dug up if it happens in autumn or winter! Deirdre

  • By Sue 2074 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 11 December 2017

    Meant to add "Happy Christmas" to you also - have enjoyed your blog during the year.

  • By margaret 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 11 December 2017

    I feel so much for you, Deirdre, having experienced digging out plants, in the RBG, and seeing them left in the sun, to ultimately die. Even though the men did their best, other folk never do the job as you would. I hope with applications of seaweed solution and TLC on your part, the disturbed plants will recover. Most plants are very resilient. At least a bonus was the acquisition of the goggles! Thanks, Margaret. I know the heartbreak you went through at RBG. It is so sad for the plants. I am a Seasol convert! Thanks for putting me on to it! Deirdre

  • By Kerrie 2104 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 11 December 2017

    Oh no! What a heartbreaking anxious experience for you & your green babies! So glad to hear they have survived.Thank God for good old Seasol! Bren i believe GoGo Juice & Charlie Carp are similar to Seasol. I am a great fan of Seasol. I recently noticed in the supermarket that the one sold for clipping on to a hose is often half the price of the normal bottle; just remove the lid and pour the specified amount into the watering can! Deirdre

  • By Sue T. 2566 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 11 December 2017

    Not a good day to be reading this while waiting for a plumber who may have to dig through my native garden this morning!!! I"m glad to hear that you and your plants survived the ordeal. Just shows that often plants are a lot tougher than we think. Do hope all that went OK, Sue! Deirdre

  • By Trish 2330 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 11 December 2017

    I had my precious little Echium plant destroyed by the builder on Friday, it took me so long to find one, good to come out of the whole experience I now have a set of stairs, or will have tomorrow, to safely walk up & done instead of using the ladder, Merry Christmas to all & all the best for the New Year. It is so awful, isn"t it, when a special plant is destroyed. Hope you can find another echium. Good you now have your stairs! Deirdre

  • By Diane 3788 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 11 December 2017

    I"m exhausted just thinking about all the work you had to do! Hope you are not too tired to enjoy a Merry Christmas and thank you so much for your blogs throughout the year. I have recovered now; just trying to cope with the heat now! Deirdre

  • By Helen 7256 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 11 December 2017

    Well done Deidre! I have faced this situation a few times too many living in two different houses on our farm. Rerouted plumbing for house & dairy, new power connection new septic etc. often with little warning, as reroute follows unexpected breakdown. The targeted area is often the most well landscaped! On one occasion a gardening friend called in and saw what the builders had done to my little blue spruce and rescued it for me. It is amazing how adaptable and resilient plants can be. You have certainly experienced some challenges! Glad your blue spruce survived! Deirdre

  • By Linda 2104 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 11 December 2017

    Thank you for your wonderful website.So full of info.and really good tips for avid gardeners.Merry Christmas to everyone involved with igarden. Thanks so much, Linda. Deirdre

  • By Norman 2653 (Zone:8-9 - Cool Temperate to Alpine) Monday, 11 December 2017

    Thank you for your kindness to plant"s / and all the best Wishes to you and your Family ; kind regards Thank you, Norman. Deirdre

  • By noeline 2081 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 11 December 2017

    Merry Christmas Dierdre Im glad they survived I would have been beside myself if my plants had to move at this time of year Wonderful for all of us though now you have written the how to manual to follow cheers to you and your family for the holiday season. Thanks so much, Noeline. Deirdre

  • By Janna UK Monday, 11 December 2017

    Well done for saving all those plants, Deirdre! I"m sure it was tempting to cut corners when you suddenly had all that extra work you weren"t expecting, but it goes to show what can be achieved when you put the effort in. I hope you have a super Christmas. Lovely to hear from you, Janna! Do hope all is well for you and the new garden. Pretty cold there at the moment? Deirdre

  • By janet 2322 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 12 December 2017

    well done Deirdre, so far I have resisted the NBN knowing that they will have to destroy parts of my precious garden, but after reading your blog I feel sure I will be able to handle the upheaval. Thank you for all the great advice throughout the year, do enjoy the festive season and merry Christmas to all our gardening friends. Jan - 2322 I hope you can head them off till the weather is a bit cooler! However, if the worst comes to the worst, all is not lost. Deirdre

  • By Lorna 2070 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Wednesday, 13 December 2017

    So glad this saga had a happy ending. Very quick thinking,and worry helped you find the energy to carry off this monumental task.It"s a pity that NBN does not give much warning before they come. Many thanks for your articles over each season. Merry Christmas. Lorna Rose Lindfield Thanks so much, Lorna. All the best. Deirdre

  • By Gaynor 5044 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Sunday, 17 December 2017

    So glad you could save your plants and that you are happy with them in "new" positions. When my turn comes, I am going to have lots of potting soil and large pots on hand. Thanks for this story, which has become "advice" for all of us facing the NBN soon.Perhaps it wouldn"t be so bad, if we didn"t keep hearing stories of how the NBN is no improvement anyway. Merry Christmas and happy gardening in 2018.

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