The Blackthorn blossom is out and the country lanes seem to be dressed in white and vibrant green for the marriage of the earth and the sun, and wild strawberries cast their dainty petals at your feet and your heart rejoices as you lift your face up to drink in the spring sunshine.
Its been a busy even hectic three weeks since I last updated my blog and great strides have been made. Its an exciting time as I see some of the seeds I planted start to sprout and I plan where all the different crops will go. This year I’m also diversifying into flowers, specifically flowers that are fragrant and that attract butterflies and bees to draw them into my garden. I’m also looking into creating a flower box of scented flowers and herbs that add colour and will be conveniently located for my cooking needs. I’m also growing some night time plants that will transform my bedroom from a place to rest my weary eyes at night into a fabulously scented exotic boudoir!
I have been hard at work digging up the vegetable patches from last year, leaving them for a day to expose the turned soil to the sun and air to kill off any unhealthy bacteria and then removing any stones and weeds that have sprung up. Backbreaking work but essential. We are still having some shockingly cold nights so I’m been careful what I’m planting outside until I’m sure the last of the frost has gone, as it would be a shame to spend a fortune on seeds and have them rot.
To date, I have planted direct into the soil:
Peas – Early Onwards
Peas – Kelvedon Wonder
Peas – Petit Pois
Mangetout – Oregon Sugar Pod
Broad Bean – Giant Exhibition Longford
Broad Bean – The Sutton
Carrot – Early Nante x2
Parsnip – Hollow Crown x2
Onion – Stuttgarter Riesan
Onion – Rinjunsburger
Radish – Zlata
Radish – Mixed
Garlic – [to ward off greenfly attacking my broad beans]
Using my own compost, I enriched the soil of all the peas and beans as they require very rich soil and will benefit greatly from some extra nutrients if you supply them with these at the beginning of the growing season.
I have had very little success with my radishes last year so I have been adding the ashes from my stove to the soil for the radishes to change the composition of the soil from acidic to more alkaline and I shall be very interested to see what if any effect this will have on the seeds I planted in that patch.
I have crammed my greenhouse to the brim with trays of seed, the majority of which shall be transplanted outside the end of April, first for hardening off and then for planting directly into the soil in the garden. This what I have planted in the greenhouse since I last updated my blog:
Celery – Pascal
Runner Beans – Scarlet Emperor x 2
Thyme – common
Larkspur – Giant Imperial Mixed
Delphinium – Pacific Giants
Sweet Peas – Spencer Mixed x 2
Night Scented Stock
I have almost finished buying all the seed I need expect for a few more herbs I want to grow like Angelica and Borage, both of which have been used since medieval times for general cooking and for making sweets.
The awful winter has had a drastic effect on the contents of my compost bin I discovered last week, instead of rich dark wonderful compost, the bin was full of slimy mush and had an awful smell. So after removing the last of the good compost that was at the bottom, using a pitchfork, I turned the compost several times [mind your back doing this as the weight of compost is shocking] and then gradually added layers of torn up newspaper to dry out the mix and to help increase the temperature inside the bin. The higher the temperature, the faster you get good compost. I will continue to do this and next time we are at the sea, will collect some new seaweed which is a great activator for your composting. To get rid of the smell, I added a few handfuls of sea salt and this really helped things. Your compost shouldn’t smell bad and is a sure sign that its too wet. I also discovered that some vegetables and fruits which had been thrown in whole were not breaking down very well so from now, we are chopping everything up more finely that goes in.
Garden Sheds & Equipment:
Spring is a great time to update and maintain all your garden equipment and any out buildings you have. Took advantage of the few nice days we had and put new wood stain and wood protector on my garden shed, as well as our garden bench Our garden table and chairs, as well as fencing and gates all need new paint so plan to do those soon. The courtyard walls need to be scraped down and repainted with antimould paint as they suffered badly from the winter rains and snows and have gone all bubbly and discolored. The varnish on the back door has warped and we have decided to take it off and then instead of putting new varnish on, to simply paint it in a cheerful colour. The kennel and the turf shed could do with a lick of paint and again instead of the traditional black and white style, we are going to try out some bright colours this year. If you are in DIY centre, take home colour swathes so that you can decided in advance what shade of paint will work best in the area you want to do up. You can also buy little samples of paint if you want to test out a colour before buying a litre or more of paint.
I have been looking into what herbs and plants I can forage on my walks and one of those is Dandelion. Commonly seen as a weed, this humble plant is a wonderful thing indeed, all parts of the plant can be used from using the young leaves in salads and stuffing, to making wine from the flowers to making coffee and tinctures with the roots. It is excellent for liver and kidney complaints and is a powerful diuretic. Today I decided to take Dandelion and herb stuffing, which was a big success and has many health benefits.
4/5 young Dandelion leaves washed
Tablespoon of Olive oil
2/3 Sage leaves
A variety of Seeds
Finely chop the herbs and onion and add the breadcrumbs, seeds, margarine and oil. Add some boiling water and mix well. Cook in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes. Serve hot with roast turkey or chicken or cold in sandwiches.
On a final note, I would like to include two poems, one about the beauty of nature and a still warm day, and the other about that yearning, that need to explore, to set off every now and then in search of adventure. Around this time of year, I start to hear the call of the unknown, the open road, the lure of the high seas and that which lies just beyond the horizon. Soon I tell myself, soon, when the weather is better and we are in the month of marrying [June], soon I will shall pack my rucksack and reclaim the world as my own. To travel every once and then is as essential to my health as sunshine and green fields, it is to become alive, to remember what it is to be free, to rediscover joy, to live for the moment and to see the world anew.
In Nature’s Garden
It is the hour when from the boughs
The nightingale’s high note is heard;
It is the hour when lovers’ vows
Seem sweet in every whispered word;
And gentle winds, and waters near,
Make music to the lonely ear.
Each flower the dews have lightly wet,
And in the sky the stars are met,
And on the wave is deeper blue,
And on the leaf a browner hue,
And in the heaven that clear obscure,
So softly dark, and darkly pure,
Which follows the decline of day,
As twilight melts beneath the moon away.
Over the Hills And Far Away
Where forlorn sunsets flare and fade
On desolate sea and lonely sand,
Out of the silence and the shade
What is the voice of strange command
Calling you still, as friend calls friend,
With love that cannot brook delay,
To rise and follows the ways that wend
Over the hills and far away?
Hark in the city, street on street
A roaring reach of death and life,
Of vortices that clash and fleet
And ruin in appointed strife,
Hark to it calling, calling clear,
Clearing until you cannot stay
From dearer things than your own most dear
Over the hills and far away.
Out of the sound of the ebb-and-flow,
Out of the sight of lamp and star,
It calls you where the good winds blow,
And the unchanging meadows are:
From faded hopes and hopes agleam,
It calls you, calls you night and day
Beyond the dark into the dream
Over the hills and far away.
W . E . Henley