Cool on one hand, Cold on the other…

Victoria Rhubarb With Gooseberry Bushes

Once again April has spluttered and stuttered its way from Fools Day to Mother Earth. For the 3rd year in succession the April weather in Ireland is being dominated by an anti-cyclonic blocking pattern steering in easterly winds and a continental air mass.
During months of high summer this would be welcome, but this early in spring it not only signals that drier air which is always welcome after the winter’s deluge, it also introduces weather patterns which steer air currents from the far eastern continental land mass, Scandinavia and Arctic regions meaning that it is also the harbinger of cooler than average air temperatures.
At least this year we get to say that April has been cool. Last year it was cold: the margin between 1 degree below average for time of year and 2½ degrees below average making all the difference between cool on one hand, and cold on the other. Spring and early summer last year was a disaster for most gardeners, eventually proving the coldest spring on record since records began. Nothing germinated, nothing flourished, and bud burst was 4-5 weeks late with almost all bloom stunted. This year things are moving; moving slowly, but moving nonetheless. Last year we had to sow and then re-sow parsnip seed 3 times before we hit green; whereas this year we’re out of bed on the first occasion. They may have taken their own sweet time in getting up, but at least the Gladiators are up in mid-April. Much the same with the bunching onions: last year’s seed were only beginning to show through by the end of May having been sown at end of March, this year they’re displaying crook necks after 3 weeks, which is about average. The Aquadulce are taking a stretch at last, and we will have to get the supports in place like yesterday before they start banging their heads on the clay, and the lettuce and rocket sown 3 weeks ago have finally put their feet down. Although still on the cool side we’ve put our beetroot (Solo) and radishes to bed, but we’ll leave the haricot and the peas a week or more yet.
The Victoria rhubarb is leafing up well at last and our plan is to have some this weekend; and once gardeners begin harvesting their rhubarb all seems good with the gardening world for another year.
Everything we’ve sown so far this year has germinated, but that is not to ignore the fact that the cool dry air has played its part in interrupting spring once again. The lack of Atlantic rain is also marked. For the third year in a row there has been a noticeable absence of those pulsating downpours we generally call April’s showers, and it seems the north easterlies are set to bring us right to the end of the month with this weekend’s forecast not faring much better.
With cooler than average and drier than average air a careful balance must be struck with watering newly established and germinating seed beds, for although the days are bright and dry, experience has taught us that most germinating seed can just about tolerate such naturally challenging conditions, but not with artificially dampened feet. One single day of intermittent April showers will develop your garden in a way that a whole month with a watering can never will, so easy with the hose while the easterly blows! We will see a welcome return to the prevailing south/south westerlies, and not a moment too soon I might add, but, the truth is that this year’s April showers will now most likely arrive sometime in May.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig

Clover & Beech Nutshell: Ballinahinch Castle

It’s a great day for the Irish; and the Oyerish:

for the drowning of the shamrock, and the wearing of the green; and singing songs; for eating greasy fry-ups and downing pints of porter and sinking peaty ale; for the Guinness and the Smithwick; for the Jemmy and The Powers;  for the going to parades and getting soaking wet; for watching the gigi’s and the Gaahhhh; for eating bacon and cabbage; for Sheeeeeeena feeena falllllllll, and a nation once again ; for emerald badges and green rosettes; for 6 foot hipster leprechauns; for sleeveens and gombeens; for The Quite Man and Finian’s Rainbow and Darby O’Gill; for Count John McCormack and Frank Patterson and U2 and Aslan and Makem and Clancy and for free born clans of travelling people; for the kingdom and the city of the tribes; for Johnson Mooney & O’Brien and Jacobs and Tayto, yes, mustn’t forget Tayto; It’s a great day for railway cups and provincial  finals; for Arkles and Triple Crowns; for Ballydehob and Ballinahinch; Letterfrack and Skibberine: For the O’Flahertys and the McCafferys; the Kellys and O’Tooles, and for the Murphy’s; always the Murphs; and for green pyramids and  Eiffel green Towers, green Opera houses and Green White Houses; and a great day  for all the Patricks and Patricias and Padrigeens and the Paddy’s; for the centenary celebrations and the rebellious remembrances; for the gatherings and the parting glasses; for the planting of spuds and parsnip seed; and for our fallen dead; for Kathleen and her 4 green fields; and all the Caithleens and Maureens who’ve gone before us…

Yes, it’s a great day for all the Paddy’s,,,,,everywhere…more anon


February Treachery

February is a treacherous month.
Being the runt of the calendar it is always found wanting when compared to the other months diary pages, and the dissident approach to adding an extra day to its measure every four years never fully camouflages the perennial happenstance where it is not only at odds with the other months, but that most of the time it is also at variance with the seasonal expectations of its own annual occurrence.
Deceiving at best, February is the gardener’s nightmare: feigning spring at mid morning, gale backed squally showers by noon often give way to some of the severest and sharpest frosts of the winter during hours of darkness. Yet, we persist with the assertion that February heralds the arrival of spring, the sneaking suspicion being that this has more to do with wishful thinking than any reality experienced in the garden.
The need to shrug-off winter’s pent-up reserves, together with perceptible increase in daily light levels often lull the naive and inexperienced into a false sense of security, and many a seed sown in February’s haste is doomed to be composted with March’s waste. The milk may be moving in the belly of the ewes, and the bright white complexion of Wordsworth’s unbidden guests may be showing on woodland floors, but it is worth remembering that these are nature’s hardy stock, far hardier than anything even the most experienced gardener itching to green fingers may have sown under horticultural fleece and propagation lighting. No one ever truly gets a head start on nature, so, take stock still, while there is still stock to take: hold your horse in the stable; keep your seed in the packet and your pots in the box. Soon enough you’ll get to grubby your hands, but before you set out to lose yourself in the doing of the garden, think on how to do it while there is still time to think on how it’s done.
A seed for cultivation:

“Those who start to garden often do the greatest harm in the garden.”
And suddenly, it is March…

Bedfordshire Champions
Bedfordshire Champions, up and out of bed…