Spring in my step

This time of year, being a gardener is like being a child waiting for Father Christmas...'four more sleeps till Santa comes'.

All around, nature is waking up. There are already buds on the trees , bulbs are lifting their heads above the parapet....but for the veg gardener , there is a moment between ordering the seeds at Christmas and waiting for frost. When it comes...a beautiful cold crisp morning near the end of January...white frost carpeting the hardened soil, every gardener knows that the growing season is imminent. Knowing when ' the last frost' is over is a huge dilemma for the gardener. The frosts will have killed off annual weeds, killed some diseases and pests, helped the soil texture by crumbling the turned sods... And then when the 'last frost' has been and gone the garden starts to wake up to spring. The soil warms, sap rises and before you know it the garden explodes with life.

It's always much earlier than you think. Traditionally we think of spring as late March early April.... But whilst that might fit with a calendar interpretation of a season...nature is a shifting beast...and it is the understanding and taming of that beast that makes gardening so rewarding. Get it wrong and you will wake one morning to find all your seedlings destroyed by a late frost...get it right and you will have crops earlier...a longer growing season and more reward for your efforts. It may sound over poetic but I think if you are really in touch with your garden and listen to nature....then you have an instinct about when the time to plant has come.....the soil almost speaks 'plant me ...I'm ready' Of course you could also listen to the weather forecast but ever since they told us there wouldn't be a hurricane...I'm never entirely confident that the weather will do what the meteorologists expect....nature is a law unto itself. Actually this year I've decided to be a bit more gung ho - the last few years I've been over cautious.....probably waited too long.....waited for the soil to shout at me rather than whisper.... And ended up being envious at how all the other plots were so much further on than mine. Being pragmatic, I'm going to plant early this year, put a heater in the greenhouse...and if everything does get killed off...well it's only the cost of a few packets of seeds.

I'm on my new veg plot this year...it's got a lovely depth of rich dark soil and I can't wait to get things in..... It's pretty much a blank canvas. I've already got garlic and broad beans in...and they seem to relish the cold. My transplanted PBS is a bit behind in height but look sturdy enough and the strawberries and raspberries and fruit trees look like they have survived the move. Other than that and a few shrubs I can only draw plans and sketches and wait for the moment. Mid feb I reckon...how many sleeps is that?

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