PLEASE NOTE: This Blog Post is NOT About Covid-19

This blog post is for any followers of this blog who are confined indoors and cannot get out. It’s also for anyone whose spirits are starting to flag. I think we’ve all been affected to a greater or lesser extent and so I’ve dedicated this blog post to cheering us up. Come and take a rapid stroll with me through bits of our farm and garden that are starting to look and feel spring-like.

After the wettest February on record, March turned out to be dry and quite warm, but it took the best part of three weeks for our vegetable garden to dry out enough to become workable. By the end of the third week in March I had planted the potatoes. To be honest, the ground was wetter than ideal, but I couldn’t see it getting much drier any time soon. So I went ahead. Fingers crossed.

The four ridge rows beneath which lie my seed potatoes. The two shorter rows are for the first earlies and the maincrops. Over the years we have found that our early potatoes mature quite fast and don’t store very well. At the other end of the season maincrop varieties tend to get attacked by slugs, especially if left in the ground into August. So the two longer rows are for second earlies, which store well and seem to resist slugs. My favourite variety of second early is Kestrel, which stores well, has an excellent flavour and good, firm texture.

The four ridge rows beneath which lie my seed potatoes. The two shorter rows are for the first earlies and the maincrops. Over the years we have found that our early potatoes mature quite fast and don’t store very well. At the other end of the season maincrop varieties tend to get attacked by slugs, especially if left in the ground into August. So the two longer rows are for second earlies, which store well and seem to resist slugs. My favourite variety of second early is Kestrel, which stores well, has an excellent flavour and good, firm texture.

One of the great things about having a garden, especially one that isn’t over-designed or too controlled, are the surprises that each season brings. After such a horribly wet winter I wasn’t expecting many such happy moments, but as usual, nature proved me wrong. There’s quite a high wall leading up to the back door. We had it built (a) because there were several pallets of bricks left-over after the house had been finished and (b) because we had to shield the back garden from the fierce south-westerly winds that still cut across this area. The ground here proved much softer than we’d expected, so we filled the wall’s foundations with rammed brick and tile rubble. This rubble supports the wall very well, but it makes the bed at its base impossibly dry. But not this season. I’ve never seen the bulbs, flowers (and weeds) thrive so well in early spring.

The wall leading to the back door. The bed running along it is normally very dry and plants growing there rarely thrive, but the very wet winter of 2019/20 has had a magical effect.

The wall leading to the back door. The bed running along it is normally very dry and plants growing there rarely thrive, but the very wet winter of 2019/20 has had a magical effect.

Early in March we decided to tackle the main borders which were starting to look very dishevelled. This is a job that cannot be done half-heartedly or in short attacks. It requires a sustained, full-on assault and usually takes about four days to complete. But it’s one of those garden jobs that transforms the gardener, too. After four days of cutting and carting I’m feeling ready for anything – and as for the border. Just take a look:

The main double border during its annual spring-clean.

The main double border during its annual spring-clean.

It has been a strange spring. Some things, such as snowdrops, are well ahead and many have finished. Daffodils were also very early and have had quite a short season; but as often happens in short seasons, their flowering was intense. Here’s a view of the meadow garden taken at the very end of March. The daffodils are in full bloom and as I write this (on Good Friday, April 10th) they have already been finished for about a week. In this weird year they have been unable to live up fully to their old name, the Lent Lily. A week or so after I took the picture, the ground was dry enough for me to cut the pampas grass back.

A view of the meadow garden, taken in mid-March, with drifts of the wild daffodil, Narcissus pseudonarcissus.

A view of the meadow garden, taken in mid-March, with drifts of the wild daffodil, Narcissus pseudonarcissus.

Every day I try to take our two dogs, Baldwin the almost human Jack Russell terrier and Pen, the lick-happy black Labrador/Border Collie cross, for at least three brisk walks around the garden. These walks are good for both me (my replacement hip has now fully recovered) and the dogs. On at least one of the daily walks I take the dykeside path that skirts round the back of our wood, along its eastern side. It’s a bit exposed to winds from off the Wash (just eleven miles away), but as it’s all fenced for grazing I can let the dogs off their leads without the fear of them bolting. Sadly, Pen has grown up to be bolt-prone – I gather it’s a problem with some Labradors. On her last bolt she was recovered by a friendly farmer three miles away. When we planted the wood back in 1993 we put many flowering trees and shrubs around the fringes. Normally it’s the cherry blossom that steals the springtime show, but this year that honour must surely go to the wild pear trees. I don’t think I have ever seen them looking so magnificent. And when the wind does decide to ease off, all the air is delicately scented. It’s a great pity that the fruit are hard, bitter and inedible.

Two views of the dykeside brink along the eastern side of the wood, with the white blossom of the wild pear Pyrus communis.

Two views of the dykeside brink along the eastern side of the wood, with the white blossom of the wild pear Pyrus communis.

6 Wild pear blossom lo res

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