Saturday, 2 March 2013

Farewell February – thank goodness!

Infant radishes.
There was an old barometer at home: brass and dark wood and springs and dials. Tap, tap, tap: was it rising or was that merely an optimistic illusion?

But now those occasional checks – largely confined to school holidays – have, decades later, metamorphosed into a far greater concern.

Last month, it was a constant question of whether the weather was good enough for trying to get the soil into shape and/or for sowing.

Indeed, the BBC now says that analysis shows that the winter has been slightly colder, grayer and wetter than average. No wonder we all feel damned depressed!

After that deceptive, teasing burst a spring a fortnight since, the temperature plunged: was it a plunge too much, in particularly at night, to damage the seeds resting in moist compost under two layers of plastic?

We may understand how life operates; how seeds germinate; what they need to grow into strong plants; their relationship with the sun and the soil, but sowing a tray of seeds for the first time still has the sense of being a leap into the unknown; a step of faith and with it, the desire for a miracle.

On Wednesday evening, after yet one more day when the sun had eventually pushed aside the blanket of grey, the daily check revealed the first signs of life; pale pin heads of life just about to press into the light.

By Thursday it was clear that it wasn’t a trick of the mind. Six radishes for certain, plus – less certainly – at least one pea and one cayenne pepper.

It’s almost impossible to describe the excitement that such events provoke.

Finally, the temperature seems to be on an upward curve, forecast to nudge closer and closer to double figures over the coming days.

The other bonus is that for much of the last week, the weather has been mostly dry, giving the soil in my potager the chance to dry. So for this weekend, there is a real chance to get it in a much better condition for sowing.

Indeed, with luck and a following wind, I may sow in the next couple of days; carrots and turnips perhaps or maybe peas and beans.

Another propagating tray is required – strawberries and tomatoes need to be started – and some flowers too; French marigolds, nasturtiums and maybe more.

And also the whole question of successional sowing: two weeks on from starting some crops, it’s time to consider more of the same.

But most of all, the moment that the weather lifts, we feel better: and invigorated, I am almost desperate to engage with nature.

It is possibly the most magical experience of all.

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