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Heavenly hellebore

Heavenly hellebore

Who’d have thought that several weeks ago when we were being deluged with rain we would end up being treated to such a beautiful start to March; the clearest of blue skies and a gentle warmth to the sun. I’d be happy enough with this sort of weather in the height of summer let alone at the beginning of spring. Of course, spring can have a sting in its tail. Few of us need reminding of last year’s weather with a surprise cold snap dragging on well into June. Lets hope for growers and farmers alike that spring eases gently into summer this time around.

The prolonged period of dry weather has been perfect to get out and tackle all those jobs which were starting to mount up. I know this will sound a bit odd but one of the jobs I most look forward to is emptying the shed. After spending all winter barely being able to get into the place it’s a relief to free it of its winter clutter. There tends to be a point around mid-February where I’ve given up all hope or pretence of being able to keep the shed tidy. Visits to the shed involve little more than standing at the door and shoving in whatever needs storing in there as best I can. Wellyman might occasionally be wandering around looking for something and say, ‘I think that might be in the shed’. There’s a hopeful look on his face as he contemplates going to look for whatever it is until he realises the folly of this idea and its rediscovery will have to wait until spring. It’s all been made worse this winter because of the torrents of rain. When we had the brick path in the garden put in for some unknown reason the builder sloped the path down towards the shed. It’s not a steep slope, in fact it’s barely perceptible. The result though is even just an average amount of rain simply washes down the bricks and settles on the concrete floor of the shed where it refuses to drain away. This winter the floor of the shed was one large puddle from December until the middle of last week. Still considering the impact the storms had on so many we have got off incredibly lightly.

My spring garden

My spring garden

It makes such a difference having a run of several dry days making it possible to get sooooo much done. Seeds have been sown and are germinating nicely, roses have been pruned, the garden and allotment weeded. Grass paths at the plot have been edged and green manure cut back and dug in. The autumn raspberries were pruned, although it was a mistake to forget my gloves. Once I was at the plot though I couldn’t be bothered to walk back home to get them, I knew I’d probably end up making a cup of tea and not coming back. So I went ahead with the pruning anyway … gingerly. I was grateful for the stretchy long sleeves of my old jumper which provided a degree of protection but not enough if my scratched hands the following day were anything to go by.

My spruced up allotment

My spruced up allotment

Then there was the mulching. I still find it hard to believe when we live in an area surrounded by farmers and stables that the allotments can’t get hold of a good source of manure. A lack of tow bars and trailers on our part and an unwillingness to deliver by the those with the muck have led to a stalemate and an empty manure patch. Last year, I finally found a source of rich, dark, crumbly green waste soil conditioner – it’s just a pity that it’s in the next county and a 40 minute round trip but I’ll take what I can get. We collected and distributed on to the allotment beds nearly 2 tonnes of the stuff. It’s surprising how much of it we needed. Another trip would have been ideal but with the green manure and some of our own compost looking like it’s ready to be used we should have enough muck, for now at least.

As winter fades there’s always a part of me that wonders if some of my plants will reappear. And when they do it is quite magical. It’s new plants I’m most worried about. I planted two hop plants at the allotment last year and did think the incessant rain might have seen them off. It’s hard to beat the feeling when you spot some shoots appearing from the ground or big fat buds swelling on a plant you were worried might be dead. I’m pleased to report the hops have survived as have quite a few plants I grew on the plot for the book which I completely forgot about. I like surprises like that.

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