It’s here at last – the vernal equinox, the first day of spring and ancient festival of Ostara, the Anglo Saxon goddess of fertility whose companion was a hare. I’ve been watching several comical hares cavorting around the field beyond the garden and, despite the disappointing weather, there is more than a hint of spring in the blankets of sunny celandines and primroses along the lanes, and a newly-arrived chiffchaff singing in the orchard.
The ground, however, is so waterlogged, I’m seriously thinking about planting rice! No hope of digging outside so I’ve been working in the polytunnel instead. The winter leaves – giant red mustard, rocket, wild rocket and coriander – are starting to run out of steam, which is no surprise as we’ve been picking them for peppery salads since last September. They are bursting to go to seed and I’m happy to let them get on with it for now, although I know they will pop up in the tunnel for ever more. I’ve always let things set themselves freely in the flower garden and I suppose old habits die hard. It’s good to see some fresh faces coming on behind, though: ‘Salad Bowl’ lettuce and mesclun which we will pick as loose leaves, more coriander (we love tagine cooking and get through masses of it), baby carrots sown in late autumn and little rows of radish at various stages of growth. Here is the promise of crispness and crunch in our April salads.
I am a bit worried about the dozen ‘Charlotte’ potatoes I planted in here several weeks ago, there is no sign of them. Roger has had great success planting them like this for many years, giving us several meals of buttery, melting new little potatoes just as the Jersey Royals hit the shops. He tells me to be patient and have faith but I’m concerned this might be my first big veg gardening disappointment. 😦
The tunnel is starting to fill up with trays and pots of seedling and I have added several more this week. There’s a tray of mixed lettuce to prick out when the soil warms up outside and some ‘Giant Exhibition’ onions which I’m interested in comparing to those growing from sets.
The ‘Musselburgh’ leeks are germinating, the ‘Greyhound’ cabbage is going well and I have planted Brussels sprouts ‘Evesham Special’ and ‘Red Bull’, broccoli ‘Autumn Green Calabrese’ and cauliflower ‘All The Year Round’ to boost the brassica patch. I had fun with the celeriac ‘Alabaster 3’ and ‘Monarch’ – the seed is so tiny, it’s not the time to sneeze! We never had much luck with it in Wales but it’s a hugely popular vegetable in France so I’m hoping it will be happier here. Finally, a sprinkle of globe artichoke ‘Green Globe’ seeds to start off some new plants for future years.
There are other things, too, to help us build up the garden from scratch. Herbs – sage, oregano, basil and thyme; flower garden perennials – lavender, scabious, lupins, delphiniums and verbena bonariensis; annuals to provide a riot of colour and tempt in the pollinators – cosmea, rudbeckia, tobacco flowers, cerinthe, sunflowers, morning glory and, of course, masses of French marigolds. So much promise of good times to come – and so much soggy garden left to dig…