Early Days in a Late Spring

As expected, April’s arrival has put an end to things: The lingering sulk of the longest winter is finally docked, and spring is most definitely sprung. For four days last week we basked in pleasant sunshine with temperatures four to five degrees above average, but this week has seen a return to more familiar Atlantic troughs with pulsing thundery showers and periods of widening sunshine.  Though the forecast hints at a cool night or two yet, by and large April is doing what April is expected to do in scattering showers and sunshine in equal measure.
Suddenly there is a noticeable greening-up and perceptible growth across the monster’s measure, and everything that seemed to be standing still and simply marking time throughout February and March has begun to reach for the warming gold orb and widening blue above. Though at times it can be the cruellest month, this year April is the gardeners’ redeemer; nature has finally set its sight on new trim, and all at once there is pep in the step of everything.
Although way too early to make hay, when the sun did shine we made up for the four week foreshortening of the season and tried to get back on track with our own general spring sowing and planting schedule. We like to think we’ve more or less achieved this. Most of what we intended to sow has been sown, and where and when we lost stock we’ve simply re-sown. The bare branches of the apple, gooseberry and blackberries are consigned to memory; the Dutch Master daffodils which provided welcome solace during the extended bleakness are now fading fast and are being crowded by the stretching globe alliums; the parsnips have germinated as has the dill, parsley and coriander; the kale seedlings are acclimatizing to life outdoors; the onions are green-shooting at last and the gourmet shallots which seemed to have given up the ghost completely have also sprung to life. We’ve bedded the tomato, pepper and aubergines in the polytunnel, and the Dirtdigging Mrs has planted out the zinnia and marigold seedlings along with some lupin and lavenders. The garlic (fingers crossed) seems to have thrived despite  atrocious months on end with its feet in the worst of the weather, and the rhubarb also looks and tastes quite good. A four legged polytunnel squatter help him or herself to the first sowings of sunflower, sweet-pea and nasturtium seed, but, we’ve remedied his squatting rights and re-sown with some added cover.
It is early days still, and yet spring is quite late. Bud burst is a good two to three weeks behind, but this is not always a bad thing. Although the stuttering spring and extreme winter weather events did quite a lot of damage to Soft Fruit Growers stock especially in the south and east of the country, a late spring can be the herald of a very good apple, pear and plum crop later in the year: the blossom burst being delayed often means a much greater rate of pollination success as all the trees in all the orchards blossom all at once, and all of the cultivars and variants benefit from the late explosion of compatibility pollinators. So, there is always an up. Some you win, some you lose. We’ve pottered away and we’re back on course. The worst of the weather is behind us for the moment, and as we dodge the heavier April showers Mrs Dirtdigger can be found, listening to the ever increasing chorus now emanating from the greening hawthorns and rowans as all those “smale fowles maken melodye”.

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Early Days Still: April 2018

April, A cruel month?

Now with the darker days overtaken, spirits soar and senses awaken. There is much to do, and thankfully while we have today we have much time still in which to do it.

April, arriving brimful with showers,
Sets the parks and gardens throbbing;
Glancing patches of bright summer blue
And cumulus blankets perpetually sobbing…JJK

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compliments of Mrs Dirtdigger @janpaulkelly instagram
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By This Time Next Year

We have much to do that needs doing on our new plot, and much to say regarding the decision to leave behind all the effort of the last seven years at our former plot; but, we’ll concentrate solely on the doing.
We’ll take a leaf from Davina McCall’s New Year’s approach to life’s challenges, and simply say that by This Time Next Year the Monster shall be a transformed creature.
At present we feel somewhat akin to Eliot’s journeying Maji, having decided on quite the worst time of year for such an undertaking, but, just as with those ancient sages the prize shall be worth it, and also by way of acknowledging the day that is of course…
At the moment, and while winter dormancy allows, we are busy transferring all our fruit trees and bushes from one allotment to our new plot located 5 miles away. The weather has remained favourable enough for the time of year, but the car will need a professional valet after the move is completed.
Currently we have one foot stuck in the old with the other foot finding its way in the new, and while not in any way drawing comparison with Shakespeare’s descriptive prowess of the mighty Julius, it strikes me –Cassius-like that is- that we …perhaps…

bestride this narrow world, Colossus like,
and beneath us crawl some petty lot,
peeping out from that shadow cast
to dig graves on their dishonourable plot…        

                                           Yes. That’ll do Pig.

with apologies for liberties taken

With courtesy nods of course to TS Eliot, William Shakespeare and Dick King-Smith

The Monster's New herb bed
The Monster’s New herb bed