Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Spring is here! (well, sort of)

The dwarf daffs have bucked the trend.
It might be difficult to believe, but today was the vernal equinox – the first day of spring.

No, I know: looking out of the window – in much of the east of the country at least – you wouldn’t be able to tell.

The sky is a blanket of grey-white cloud, putting an unrelenting dampener on everything.

As we head into evening, the birds that were at least twittering to each other under that cover have gone quiet, as the rain starts to fall again.

Someone said to me yesterday that it feels as though we’ve already had six months of winter. And it's impossible to disagree.

Temperatures are below what they should be and the gloom seems to be sticking around.

Peas, broad beans, a hint of runner & radish.
The bright spot on the horizon is that the vernal equinox is a tipping point. Since, from now on (for six months) the days will be longer than the nights in this hemisphere, the sun will – eventually – break through and temperatures will rise.

But for the moment, while some of the country is having better weather, many of us remain buried beneath that cloud.

And frankly, it feels as though we’re underneath a duvet where someone has farted.

Of our bulbs, the crocuses have been and gone – without the weather to enjoy them – and we now have dwarf daffs, which are managing a glorious display that, frankly, gives the bird to the weather.

From the perspective of the garden, this late, late spring would seem to be a big problem. Yet I do wonder if it’s actually a bit of a blessing too.

In only my second year of gardening – and arguably this is really only my first serious one – the weather is meaning that I can’t simply take what I read in a book, a magazine or a seed packet at face value.

In other words, I cannot be a book-learned gardener.

Perhaps the fact that I have all those seed cells sprouting new, delicate plants is simply beginner’s luck, but maybe not.

There is an extent to which I decided to start things off that way even though seed instructions suggested sowing straight outside last month.

In other words, I looked at the weather, looked at the packets – and then made up my own mind based on what I saw and felt was happening.

This, I think, may be a good sign for the future of my gardening. Perhaps I'm more in tune with something than I could have known 12 months ago when I started this project in such hesitating fashion?
It really doesn't look much like spring, does it?

What I do know is that it was a delightful ego rub to read Monty Don asserting, in My Roots, that real gardeners are those who sow from seed rather than buying a load of plants.

Mind, nature is more than capable of deflating ego. Slugs and snails are the perfect vehicles for that.

But I have strategies in mind and in place.

The potager is in a far better situation than it was last year.

With all the weeds and the dead and dying bush removed, there’s nowhere for slugs to hide during the day time. So the easiest option for the forthcoming months is to make sure that none get a foothold.

The potager, after carrots were sown at the weekend.
And a Dutch hoe makes attacking weeds before they can grow much really easy.

I also have copper ready to encircle any tender young plant. And will be getting copper tape to wind around any pot in which I intend to grow salad leaves, for instance.

There will be an odd ‘slug inn’ – a pot sunk into the ground and containing yeasty beer in which greedy slugs and snails will drown – but they’ll be set away from the plants I’m defending.

And there will, of course, be after-dark patrols, with torch and latex gloves to get rid of the little buggers.

I have learnt a thing or two already.

Urban compost buckets: perfect for small spaces.
And I will learn more.

But I have just this inkling – this tiny sense in myself – that maybe I do have green fingers; that maybe I have a greater connection with and sense of the soil than could have been expected.

In the meantime, I now have two 'urban compost' buckets that will allow me to create my own fertiliser and compost in a tight urban environment. It's another step up and solves the problem of space.

At breakfast in the canteen this morning, I was talking with someone who has an allotment. We hit a point where we burst into life discussing how wonderful it is to grow from seed and things germinate and develop.

Life-affirming; magical; magnificent; wondrous.

And even when we find ourselves, as now, battling the unseasonal elements, we can lift ourselves by knowing that, eventually, spring really will be with us.

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