Slowly but surely the garden is emerging from its winter slumber. On gloomy, grey days the nodding heads of snowdrops glow; on gin-clear days they sparkle and glisten. Hellebores hang their flower heads as if they are too shy to display their beauty. The slender green shoots of crocus bulbs are appearing. One lone crocus is ahead of the pack, its buttermilk-coloured petals opening to the first hints of warm sunshine.
I, too, am experiencing a reawakening. I feel a bit like a bear poking its head out of its winter hibernation home, sniffing the air, rubbing its eyes and deciding whether it’s warm enough to emerge yet. Up until Sunday I would have said no. If I was a bear I’d have retreated inside, had a good scratch and eaten lots of marmalade. That’s what bears do, isn’t it? As I’m not, I put more logs on the fire, I read, I crocheted, I wrote and I ordered seeds. Too many seeds, as usual.
Then it was if that first tantalizing hint of spring arrived. Sunday was a stunner. Crystal clear skies and warm sunshine. Well, when I say warm it was 8⁰C, but that felt positively tropical now there was no north wind to add windchill to the freezing temperatures of the previous week. After weeks of wondering whether my garden mojo would return I was outside filling seed trays with compost and preparing for the first seed to be sown. The compost was cold. Cold enough to make my fingers numb. No seed would be encouraged into life in this, so the seed trays and modules have spent the last few days warming up on the heated propagator and near a radiator. It’s imparted an interesting smell to the kitchen, but hopefully it has created a much more welcoming place to sow my seeds this week.
There’s a lot written at this time of year about whether to sow or not. Most of us are so eager to start growing. The conditions aren’t ideal yet for many seeds and sowing too early can lead to problems later on with a backlog of plants too big to look after indoors but it’s not quite warm enough for them to be planted outdside. Some plants however do need an early start. They can be slow to germinate or just need a long growing season to do their thing. For me this includes flowers for my cutting patch such as ageratum, statice and antirrhinums. Any plants which say on the packet they will flower in their first year from an early start are worth sowing in the coming weeks. They’ll need a bit of warmth in order to germinate and as much daylight as you can give them. But, as we’re only six weeks away from the spring equinox and seven weeks from the clocks going forward, light levels are definitely improving. I also like to get sowing now as I know how frantic March can be. I have limited space so starting off some plants now is one way of staggering the seed sowing demands on the horizon.
Obviously a few sunny days in February doesn’t mean we can shake off winter just yet – as I’m writing this post, the gloom of winter has returned, with an impenetrable grey sky looming over head. But I’m going to embrace the last few weeks (hopefully) of winter and savour any time in front of the fire. My winter project – a crocheted granny square blanket – is nearly completed. It’s been an epic. All 208 squares are finished and I’m in the process of stitching them together. Then I just need to edge it with a border. The aim is to complete it for the start of March. I hate having unfinished projects lying around, so I know it needs to be completed before the garden grabs my attention.
One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to read in my lunch break. As work has been a bit crazy over the last few weeks (the pattern of freelance work is very much like the frequency of buses) my utopian idea of reading every day hasn’t come to fruition. But my resolution hasn’t been a complete right-off and I have managed to devote some time to this gem of a gardening book.
Second Nature by Michael Pollan is a fascinating and wittily written book by this American author. It’s worth reading simply for the hilarious description of his war with a woodchuck which sets up home in his garden – I laughed so much I snorted my tea. One of the benefits of working from home is that nobody saw that moment of inelegance. The book is full of deeper, thought-provoking ideas too – our love of roses, a gardener’s relationship with trees and man’s desire to tame nature – with each chapter following the creation of his own garden. I would heartily recommend reading it. Stop drinking your tea though when it comes to the woodchuck bit.
John Hric said:
a nice picture of the hellebore and some warming thoughts. it is still a bit too crisp here for those things. they will come in time. it might even be time to start sorting this year’s crop of seeds that need planting…
Thank you! We’re lucky that the sea keeps our climate fairly mild, although we do pay for it with the rainfall amounts. 😉 Hope it warms up for you soon. Seed sorting sounds like the perfect task. 🙂
Judy @ newenglandgardenandthread said:
Oh my, thank you for the smile. My idea of heaven – starting seeds, the smell of compost, finishing a winter project, and a good book. 🙂
Hello Judy! It’s actually the first winter that hasn’t been a real struggle for me. The gloom is a bit oppressive at the moment but the winter project has kept the mind focused and spring is too far away. 😉
It is interesting to read how by February you have lost your gardening mojo, I suspect that is the case for most. I am very impressed by your blanket and your warming trays of compost, I really better get on with all the ‘stuff’ needing to be finished before my time is taken up in the garden. I do not know the book but after your snorting I feel obliged to take a look!
Hi Dorris. I was mainly wondering if my mojo would come back. I’m often raring to go much earlier than this year (I had several paths built at the allotment by this point several years ago!) but I think the cold has made me want to retreat. Still, no harm in that. Yes, I’m trying to get myself organised with work stuff before I get too distracted with seeds. It a good book, worth a read. 🙂
rusty duck said:
Spot on about starting things off too early and having plants ready to go outside before it’s time. Exactly the trap I fell into last year.
Possibly Michael Pollan’s woodchuck should meet my pheasant. Or maybe that would just give each of them additional ideas. It sounds a great book and I will look out for it.
I normally do it with things like courgettes and french beans which are quick growers. I need some flowers blooming early this year, so I’m hoping to sowing them now will do the trick. Oh dear! I’m lucky to have not experienced the problems a pheasant can cause or a woodchuck for that matter. 😉
David Marsden said:
I’ve been patiently waiting for spring to arrive but now realise I’ve got loads of winter jobs still to do. I was going to make a couple of duck nest-boxes but wonder whether I’ll now have the time. Good tea-snorting avoidance advice. D
I have winter jobs to do too but it’s cold and I’m a wuss, so they’ll have to wait until that warm sunshine returns. 😉 It has been grey, grey, grey today. Hoping for some more hints of spring soon. I’m happy to provide health and safety advice re: tea-snorting. Lou
Charlie@Seattle Trekker said:
My hellebores are in full bloom as well, the peonies are coming up through the ground, and there is a real sense that spring is truly on its way.
Pleased to hear spring is on its way for you too. It’s a lovely feeling to think of blossom and bursting buds. 🙂
I do know how you feel, I was very down last week but a couple of days work in the garden has made me feel so much better.
Oh I’m sorry to hear that Christina. I haven’t felt too bad this winter, I think the winter project and lots of work have kept me so busy I haven’t had much chance to notice the dark. Although saying that it’s been very gloomy today. Time to light the fire I think. Glad to hear time spent in the garden has made you feel perkier. 🙂 x
The vents in our greenhouses opened (just a crack though) on Sunday! I had to smile at you warming your seed trays – I have some early sowings stacked on an old pan stand next to the Aga and there’s definitely a whiff of warm compost sometimes – nice though …. ; I Enjoy getting into seed sowing mode again – I know you will!
Hi Cathy, It’s surprising how much warmth is in the sun, when we can see it of course. I feel like my blog post or setting up the propagator has put a curse on the weather as grey skies loom overhead now. 😉 Love your compost warming, pan, Aga combo. Here’s to spring! 🙂
Not pan, Louise – a pan stand, shown again in today’s post 🙂
Ah! Sorry! Finding it hard to keep up with everything at the moment. Fantastic idea. 🙂
I’ve just had two ‘reawakening’ days as well! And oh, how much better I feel. The book looks really interesting – must search for it. In my garden I’d substitute voles for the woodchuck. I work freelance at home too. The thing I hate most is to get lots and lots of work at the end of February through until April. Famine or feast – why can’t clients avoid synchronising with my garden?
It’s so good, isn’t it? Those first days where the urge to get out, garden and grow returns. I’ve spotted lots of mole hills near my allotment. So far I’ve been very lucky in terms of pests. The neighbours’ cats do more damage than anything else. I’m finding the freelance thing quite difficult to get used to. There are so many advantages to working from home but I would like to be able to bounce ideas off people and share creative ideas occasionally. As for balancing the work load, that seems like an impossibility!!! 😉
Couldn’t agree more about the freelancing – I work frequently for someone who used to be in the desk next to me, and sometimes I just wish she was THERE. It’s a tricky balance to find, and I struggle every day. Maybe the neighbours’ cats are controlling the mole population (mine do!)? Moles are very sweet and mostly harmless. But since my cats got to work on the local population I’ve seen an exponential explosion in wormcasts: ie, the cats’ hunting habits have given me more worms in the garden.
I don’t mind the moles and haven’t had any problems with them but others on the allotment seem to have had, as a mole catcher is often called in. The moles are so thoughtfully left on the gate post. The little face staring back at me always takes me by surprise. Fortunately I have always noticed before putting my hand on them. Love the sound of all those worm casts.;) I love being able to have control over my working hours to some degree and being able to make a stew in the afternoon and then just work a bit later on an evening. It would be nice to have someone to make me a cup of tea occasionally though. 😉
I like moles too, and half wish the cats wouldn’t kill them. But then there’s the worms! Life’s complicated. I also need someone to make me cups of tea! Take care.
A most enjoyable post, which I’m sure that has fellow gardeners nodding in agreement.
The books sounds interesting so I will put it on the list. xx
Hi Flighty, It’s that exciting time with so much promise ahead. It would be nice to see the sun again though. It’s been a dull, grey week. Hopefully it’ll return for the weekend. Lou xx
Diana Studer said:
I’m used to granny squares in fierce colours.
Love your mellow greens and singing blues.
Thank you! I spent ages trying to work out the colours and pattern and then came across a great blog Attic 24 where the author had put together a mix of colours for a yarn company. I added in a another colour I liked. I’m so pleased with how it looks. I wanted something a little different.
Here I am at the opposite end of the globe and also in the opposite frame of mind when it comes to gardening. I’m in the position of losing my gardening mojo – February is my least favourite gardening month as everything is getting straggly and tired looking (me included).
We get some hot days (high 30’s) at this time of year and in southern Tasmania we also get strong winds coupled with the hot spells. The heat and wind is pretty destructive to the garden and in turn makes me grumpy.
Here the sun is getting up later and later but that’s fine. Because we’re so far south the summer days are really long and I am typically out in the garden until it gets dark well after 9pm – and then I go inside and get my head torch and head back outside! By this time of year I’m starting to look forward to the cooler weather and break from the garden slog.
I adore your rug! Especially the colours, it is beautiful. Please post some close ups! I have always wanted to learn how to crochet and am considering taking a class this Winter. One of my most prized possessions is a granny square crochet rug my grandmother made me – she finished it about a month before she died.
I also love reading about Spring on the other side of the globe – the snowdrops, the emerging daffs and the seed sowing. The last month of Winter until late Spring (Aug to late Oct for me) is my absolute favourite time of the year.
I used to hate winter but now see it as a forced break from the garden – I use it to plan the garden for the coming year, clean, sharpen and oil tools, clean out the shed and greenhouse and also take up a Winter project (I have some William Morris tapestry cushions on the go).
Hi Danielle, You have my sympathies. I’m feeling tired and a tad straggly looking myself but I have that winter pallor too. 😉 I can see why you’d feel grumpy. I hate wind too. I nice gentle breeze is lovely but that swirly, gusting wind which can cause damage is so annoying. It’s a long time since I’ve experience temperatures that high. I remember a summer about 12 years ago when we had a 4 week spell of temperatures in the 30s every day. We went to one of those Proms in the Park concerts for our wedding anniversary and it was 35 degrees C at 5pm. Those sort of temperatures just make me feel lethargic. I can see why you’re looking forward to something cooler.
Thank you for your compliments about the rug. I will definitely post some close-ups. Hopefully I’ll be finished it in a few weeks and then I’ll take some more photos. The light yesterday was dreadful, it was so dark and gloomy all day so it was hard to get any decent shots. I only really started crochet two years ago. It’s fab and I would definitely recommend giving it a go. A class would be brilliant. I’ve found the following books to be really useful. I managed to teach myself from both of them. http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1409364186 and http://www.amazon.co.uk/Crochet-Workshop-Learn-Inspiring-Projects/dp/1849491070/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1423737772&sr=1-1&keywords=erika+knight . How lovely to have you grandmother’s blanket, a lovely memory of her.
If the weather is kind April and May are probably my favourite months. So much going on in the garden and nature, so much excitement.
It sounds as if you’ve got lots to keep you busy this winter. Do I spot a blog address there? Perhaps another winter project? I’d love to read any posts if you do plan on writing. 🙂 Lou x
The other day my husband asked why I had a large bag of compost standing in the dining room!!! Like you, I have been warming up compost to start sowing. The chilli padron and my artichokes are already growing, they take so incredibly long to produce anything, the earlier I can get them started the better. Your tea-snorting advice is one of the best recommendations for reading a book I have seen in a long time.
This did make me chuckle. Love the picture of the bag of compost warming. The water coming out of the tap at the moment is very cold too so I’m even putting some warm in that. 🙂 I’m impressed you’ve already got plants growing. It is a tricky balance growing those plants which need the long growing season and leaving the others for a little bit later. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in quite a while. 🙂
I haven’ t started seed sowing yet, oh dear I am panicking now. You are stealing a march and it is only February.
Spring did put in a brief appearance here on Sunday too and all the little species crocuses opened up. They’ ve changed their minds now.
I have the Michael Pollan book and love it. It has funny bits as you say, but it is also thought- provoking and well written.
There’s plenty of time, so don’t panic. It’s really only a small handful of seeds that I sow so early, others will wait until March and April. Yes, it was a brief appearance – it’s been grey and dull here ever since. Oh well, the week ahead holds some promise of mild weather and sunshine. Fingers crossed as I have roses I need to prune. 😉 Second Nature is brilliant. Interesting to read a gardening book from an American’s perspective.
I’m itching to get my fingers in some compost again but I’m managing to hold off for the time being. It’s good to see the garden coming to life again though and the extra light on an evening is wonderful. Your blanket is beautiful, I’ve just started a granny stripe blanket, though it will take a back seat once gardening weather is here.
Hi Jo, I have all my seeds divided up now so the next batch will be sown at the start of March. I can’t wait. The first seeds have started to germinate – it’s all so exciting. 🙂 Love the sound of your blanket. Looking forward to seeing it come together.
Impressive crochet project! I find the Attic 24 blog is v inspiring (in fact it was Lucy’s excellent instructions that got me into crochet). We had our glorious warm day last Monday – typically on a day I was working. It’s only the recent ferocious winds that have kept me indoors as I’m determined to have some decent fruit this year so I’ve been out collecting mulch (well rotted horse manure from the local city farm) and pruning trees, even on cold days. I’m thinking of a redesign for the veg patch that includes a row of cut flowers so I’m with you on the early sowing. Everything is definitely perking up though – here in London I’ve got the RHS plant fair and first secret garden Sunday to look forward to at the end of the month! Yayy! I’ve just used the last of my frozen broad beans from last year’s harvest so more beans will be the first to be sown along with sweet peas and, ooooh, lots of other stuff. 😀 x
Thanks Caro. It is a fabulous blog. Hope you manage to squeeze in a few rows of cut flowers. It does feel like the new growing season is starting to build up some momentum. Some of the seeds I sowed last week have germinated. It’s still as exciting as the first time I sowed something. 🙂 x
Victoria Summerley said:
I am going to keep reading and re-reading your blog to get myself into gear – I am still at the hibernating bear stage. Thanks for the book recommendation, it sounds just the sort of thing I like. Although I doubt that I have the self-discipline to read it in my lunch hour I’ll probably end up on the sofa with it all afternoon.
I’ve retreated once again to hibernating bear after last week’s weather, but I have seeds germinating on the windowsill which is an incredibly cheering sight. That is the problem with reading in my lunch hour, but if I read at night I either fall asleep or stay up too late and then regret it the next day. 😉
You are off the starting block and running – how exciting!
You are pulling an early spring out of your writing–I wish you the best. In my little corner of the northern hemisphere, I was just thinking I needed another good snow or two–after all there is one more month on the clock until spring officially checks in, no?
I’m in a spot which is warmed by the Gulf Stream so our winters tend to be mild in comparison to many places. We have yet to have any real snowfall and only a handful of frosts. Spring might be a month away officially but here buds are breaking and birds are building nests. I saw some hawthorn opening yesterday and daisies in flower, so spring feels like it’s on the way.
What a lovely post, the shy hellebore is a beauty, I do love them.
What an adorable patchwork quilt, I do wish I could make something like that.
I agree re sowing seeds to early, I do chit the potatoes though.xxx
Thank you! The blanket isn’t too difficult it’s just been quite time consuming but I’ve loved it. It’s perfect for doing whilst watching the TV on an evening. Take a look a crocheted granny squares online. I taught myself with a combination of books and online tutorials. 🙂