The sun does arise

21Feb09

The Sun does arise,

And make happy the skies.

The merry bells ring,

To welcome the Spring.

From The Ecchoing Green, William Blake (Songs of Innocence & Experience)

We have had the most glorious day today, and there was no way I was ever going to anything but work in the garden. Such a fresh and bright day to blow all the cobwebs away, and it stunned me, given that we had snow on the ground a couple of weeks ago, how far along everything is now.

Next to the pergola on the patio, the lilac has leaf buds, as does the tree peony. I’m thrilled, because that was a new acquisition last year, and I wasn’t convinced it would survive. The big rose (Generous Gardener) is covered in leaf-buds, all flushed and swollen, and there a little sheaths of garlic spearing up around its base. Walking off the patio, the apple tree is in bud, and its companion blackcurrant bush has tender red buds up its stems. The redcurrant is a little behind it, still dormant. Poking through the grass beneath the apple tree are the sharp green blades of daffodils and the feathery spikes of crocus leaves. The anthriscus and angelica seeds that didn’t germinate indoors last autumn . . . I saved the trays, so I just dusted them into the ground around the apple tree, and we’ll see what happens – they might be happier, tho I’ll admit it’s a long shot. Still, nothing to lose, and we’ll see how it goes.

The early raspberry canes either side of the pergola-path down the garden are showing buds, and the garlic is up  amongst the raspberry canes as well. The first whorls of aquilegia are fragile grey-green sparks against the dark earth, and we have pale tight buds nestled into the thick, fleshy leaves of the primula.

And there is pussywillow on the Kilmarnock . . .  showed them to Rumpus and he went wild for the softness and stood for ages, stroking them as if they were little kitten-tails.

kilmarnock-pussywillow

Down at the bottom of the garden, it’s almost as exciting. Underneath all the leaf-litter, there are signs of life – the first shoots of lily-of-the-valley, anemones and more primroses, and then the horseradish and rhubarb are just poking themselves up out of the ground. The artemesia I thought was dead has got a couple of tiny pale-green leaf-buds, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed it will make a comeback.

In the raised beds, the onions and shallots have overwintered well, and despite my concerns about how damp and cold it has got, their doesn’t appear to be any lasting damage. I’m a little disappointed that I have no spring onions – I’m not sure whether I had a duff batch of seed, or if I’ve got a bigger pest problem than I thought at first. I fight a constant battle against the demon slugs, so they are prime suspects, but I don’t usually lose en entire crop. The same goes for the carrots I tried to force overwinter – despite cloching and fleece, they didn’t make it. I am wondering if I underwatered . . . . Sigh. I have cheered myself up by planting the first succession of this year’s carrots – Artemesia – in raised bed box #1 – it’s nicely fleeced and cloched for the next couple of weeks, and I’m going to nematode the whole zone tomorrow evening . . .

The weeds always seem to get a headstart on me, but hopefully they’re not too out of control just yet. I’ve been around the garden and uprooted the brambles making their first invasion attempt. Sometimes, it is demoralising to realise that this battle will continue for as long as we live here, given that I encourage them on the other side of my fence. Is that NIMBYism taken too far? I just love the fruit, but I can’t have them taking over inside the garden. I had to face my annual mora dilemma – it always seems criminal to me that I have to grub up and throw away so many oak saplings every year, but given we are surrounded by four big old oaks, I’d be overrun if I didn’t, and attempts to give them away in previous years to *anyone* who will have them have never been successful. So. Into the bonfire pile they go.

I did the first bonfire this evening – I always have an internal struggle as to whether or not to burn the rubbish or not, and usually end up doing it despite my anxieties about carbon emissions (& I don’t care who says bonfires are caron neutral, I don’t believe them!). I split the leaf litter between the bonfire and the compost heap, but there’s always so much else that just doesn’t compost well at all – phormium leaves & bamboo leaves are a disaster in the compost heap, and because we hacked out the monster grapevines last year, I’ve got all of those to deal with as well. Most of the bigger stuff we’re using in the woodburner (no better than the bonfire I know), but there’s still a fair amount that will just end up getting torched. I console myself that at least the nutrient-rich ash will get worked back into the earth from which it came.

The shed got a good airing out, and I’ve cleared the sunnyside shelf ready for planting (one day, I *will* have a greenhouse) and cleaned and prepared the seed trays.

It looked a bit of a daunting task to start off with, but it seems that the decluttering indoors has just resulted in a pile of random articles being piled into the shed by way of storage. Those will be cleaned up and freecycled when I get a moment, and the worst debris will be tipped. I was surprised that I only filled one old-compost-bag’s worth of proper rubbish – I expected there to be more, but then I didn’t do a full shed tidy – just the bit I needed!! (It is a task that needs to be attacked, but I didn’t have the energy today).

The mound of nets and canes that got dumped alongside the shed at the end of last season is no more – the canes are in an old bucket with the bottom knocked out, buried in the ground to stop it toppling over. The nets – still need to be unpicked of dead leaves etc and folded and mended for this season, but that’s one for tomorrow. The bonus was that I unearthed a pile of old seed trays (I *knew* I had more than I found in the shed!) so I dumped the spent compost into the big compost bin, cleaned them up and now they’re in the pile ready for this year’s seeds.

Today’s *ewwwwwwww* award went to a plastic storage that had been left outside all winter and was full of rainwater and decomposing leaves. A part of me was tempted to sink it into the ground and make a mini-pond of it, because I was convinced that it must already be a mini-eco-system, but I’m afraid the smell was just too vile so I dumped the lot. I’ll clean *that* mess up tomorrow.

All in all, I got about half-way round the back garden yesterday. The forecast is that the weather will hold tomorrow, so that should get me around the rest of the back garden, and then we’ll be all set and ready for the planting season.

And then, I will have to tackle the front garden. It’s an evil job, but someone has to do it, otherwise I’ll have nowhere to put my pear-trees when they arrive in March. And that’s a very exciting prospect . . .

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