“I can’t remember such an extended period of wind and rain.” Roger utters as we study our very soggy garden beds. We are standing in the wind and drizzle taking an inventory of the spring gardening projects. We have a lot.
For such a mild winter nothing has grown. Too much rain and a complete lack of sunny days have laid to waste much of our winter vegetable beds. The remaining hopes — cabbages —were attacked by rabbits, despite our fencing. In short, our winter garden this year has been a washout.
Looking out upon our vegetable beds, I can’t help but feel weary and careworn. Procrastination taking hold like a tap-root weed as I anticipate the exhaustion I will feel BEFORE we begin to tackle these jobs. To keep the rabbits out, yet make access to the raised vegetable beds easier, we are considering building them up another plank level. Currently the beds are 12 inches high. If we double that, the additional compost will give us better growing conditions, a little less bending for us, and an easier defence from the rabbits. That is, the rabbits who don’t burrow into the beds. We’ve just discovered a bloody big tunnel right in the middle of our artichokes. Those little bastards!
A year ago, I planted nearly 300 bulbs and this past November we planted 100 hedge plants — blackthorn, holly, dog rose, maple, hawthorn and guelder rose — to create a habitat for wildlife and ultimately create a hedgerow where the fencing is failing. What is giving us hope and renewed energy toward our garden are the snowdrops and daffodils poking out from under their mulch of fallen leaves. These brave little harbingers of spring are defying the rains and mud reminding us to just get on with it. So too, the hedge plants are all showing signs of establishing themselves.
Beginning their floral displays are the garden plots we re-established this past year. Lifting rocks into place and creating drainage, we added rich compost and planted bulbs and bedding plants artfully along the perimeter of the house. When my brother was visiting in September, he helped relocate and separate some plants that had wilted or suffered shock by being moved. Peter and I looked at them with a strong sense that our intervention had likely killed these voracious plants. Happily, they are perking up, budding new leaves and sporting a few purple, pink and white flowers as they shake off their sleepy winter state.
I am ready for spring and accept that I have another month or two before we are in the swing of it, but the past several months of endless rain and skies, which on most days look like dirty plastic hastily placed to cover a broken window, are enough. There are days when the clouds are like low-hanging mist rooms, testing my usually sunny resolve. Or, there are days when the clouds lift up high and play hide and seek with the reluctant sun, setting out to tease me with hopes of a dry day. While our winter vegetables didn’t grow, the potholes along our track certainly did and we are facing a much larger job this spring than in past. Most of the trenches to the side of the track have been restored, and once we have several days of sunshine, we can begin to fill the ever deepening potholes.
The activity of Sparrows, Tits, Robins and Finches at the bird feeders is on the upswing. And those noisy Jackdaws are starting to make a mess in and around the barn building their broken-twig-messy-nests. The lambing season also heralds the arrival of spring and soon the sounds of bleating lambs calling to their mothers will fill the air. Slowly, our chickens are beginning to up their egg production and the recent daily appearance of a blackbird perched atop one of our window boxes, which will soon be planted with marigolds, delights us with his melodic mating song. Yes, we need to get a move on with these projects.
The light is lingering later into the day and further inspection of the garden shows we need to build a new bed for the rhubarb as it suffers in its current location. The blueberries need a prune. And when a sunny day rolls around, the greenhouse will get its spring cleaning and the strawberries inside will be replanted. Our potatoes, beets, lettuces, tomatoes, radishes, carrots and onions will all be ready for planting in April and May. We carry on with our outside inventory, picking up fallen branches from the trees as we go. We stop and listen to the birdsong across the valley, and notice small buds appearing on the trees. The beard of moss and lichen on the trees and rocks sports new little flowers. And just below where we’ve stopped I spy the beginnings of nettles. Despite any garden setbacks, there will always be successes. Perhaps in a few weeks there will be enough of these pesky plants to make some soup.