So one minute it feels like spring the next minute we’re plunged back into winter. Of course, this is perfectly natural at this time of year as the seasons change. It’s possible to have snow and hail showers even in April but I am so desperate now for some warmth and some sunshine and I know I’m not alone. It doesn’t help that this time last year we were basking in sunshine and temperatures into the seventies. But then again we all know how last year’s weather turned out.
After a stormy night with gusts of wind that disturbed my sleep I thought I should check the plot just to make sure a couple of cloche-type constructions I have up there were still in place. They had collapsed but the plants underneath were fine. Some remedial repair work was needed though. Our timing couldn’t have been worse as the blue sky turned dark and grey and a squally snow shower blew across the allotments. There we were, Wellyman and I, trying to fold a sheet of polythene which turned into a sail in the strong winds as tiny snow flakes whipped at our faces. There are times when I wonder why I grow my own and this was one of those moments.
This is the time of year when there’s much debate as to when to sow. Most of us are champing at the bit to get our hands on some compost once Christmas is over. In January though, light levels are low and some of the coldest weather of the winter is still ahead of us so it is wise to be restrained. There does come a point however, when, regardless of what the weather is doing outside, you just have to go for it. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. For me I would much rather take a bit of a risk and sow a little early perhaps and if the worst comes to the worst I can resow. If I’m fortunate and the weather is good then I’ve got a bit of a head start.
This year has been a frustratingly slow start with many seeds struggling to germinate in the greenhouse but a bit of sunshine is all it takes now for the greenhouse to be lovely and warm inside. So in the last few weeks seeds have germinated and there are now heartening signs of growth. Spinach is growing well, as are my red leaved dandelions and my pot of pea shoots. Signs that my first salad pickings aren’t too far off.
Sweet peas germinated in the warmth of my kitchen have been moved to the colder greenhouse to encourage strong growth. Tempting as it is to try to get plants to grow more quickly, forcing them on in the artificially warm conditions of my home will only produce soft plants which will struggle when introduced to the reality of outdoors life.
Back in January before we had our first cold spell I noticed Verbena bonariensis seedlings appearing in my gravel path. It’s a plant I love but I tend to buy in good-sized plants in mid-spring as these have had a head start on the self seeded plants that appear in my garden. The mild weather up until that point must have encouraged these plants to appear; I wouldn’t normally expect to see them until April. I gently pulled them from the gravel and potted them up and put them in the greenhouse. There was a point when it looked like they were all dying but in the last few days strong healthy buds have started to appear. Sheltering in the greenhouse today with snowflakes hitting the glass it’s hard to believe that these little plants will be taller than me by the summer and swaying in a gentle, warm breeze. Tucked underneath on one of the shelves of my greenhouse staging are pots with dahlia tubers in them. I potted them up last week into slightly damp compost. Planting up dahlias early, as long as you can keep them somewhere frost-free until mid May, means a much longer flowering season.
For me this need to persevere and keep going is one of the reasons why I love gardening and growing so much. In many aspects of life I have a tendency to pessimism, or realism as I prefer to call it but growing sort of forces me to get on with things. It would be easy enough for me to look out the window and become quite downhearted by the weather at the moment and think I’ll just stay indoors where it’s warm and cosy. I know though that if I don’t sow and don’t prepare that I’ll curse myself in several weeks time when it is more like spring. It’s the window sills full of little pots of newly pricked out seedlings and signs of growth that tell me to plough on regardless. I’d love to hear about the seeds you’ve sown so far.