The Edges of Spring?



“March,” so an oft-quoted proverb goes “comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb”. Much is made by the British met Office that 1st March (also St David’s Day) is their beginning-of-spring (as opposed to the astronomical one) but certainly with two named storms around the date we have certainly had the lion roaring around us.

But strong winds, as well as bringing rain, scoot the clouds away and yesterday we had gloriously blue skies. Perfect for my assigned job of putting the second edge to the “middle plot”. We have three plots between us on the site. You might expect them to be of equal size … but the middle one is noticeably narrower. We had worked together on the first side, fixing ex-pallet planks together (using the nails taken out of said pallets), established a straight edge and with much removing of turf from the existing path, set it into place with stakes sawn from the ubiquitous pallets.

Never having been one for straight lines even I am impressed by the formality it gives to the plot … and it is a move forward, something that was not there before. Over winter we have ventured up to the site: to ritually winter-dig, to gather parsnips or check on the state of the plot, security, move things from place to place, wonder at the growth of winter sown broad beans and onions. But this – for a fine change – is real progress.

And, with the tenuous warmth of the sun pouring down it is easy to recognise the creeping-up of spring. Birds nesting well under way, bulbs pushing leaves through the soil surface, polyanthus blooming, hazel catkins blowing in winds, no frogspawn yet, but amphibians quite vocal in our back garden. Sweet pea seeds sown in pots. Potatoes – finally set into boxes to chit up. Not everyone does this: Little Dave already has his early potatoes planted* (“It might get cold,” he wisely says, “but they’m underground, won’t get affected.”)


Plot 4D has a make-over. The winter dug soil is raked out, levelled. The winter weather has hopefully done its task of breaking up clods, killing weed seeds, discouraging slugs and snails. Now the rake pushes and pulls it into a charming workable area, less uncouth, more welcoming. Lime gets added because the soil on this plot is really gloopy and the lime should help break it down. Strangely the nature of the soils varies from plot to adjacent plot. Let the sun begin to heat up the ground now. The weirdly shaped roots of runner beans left in the ground are rounded up and popped onto the compost heap with other debris, the serpentine white roots of couch grass go to the pile to be burned.

While working I am joined by Dr Pepper – good to see he is staying on-site**. If all goes well he will become a first-time father in around six weeks’ time. Understandably he is both nervous and excited, unsure of how much time he will be able to put in up here.

Tadpole Bob also wanders over. Thankfully I have accomplished the second edge, which is cause for good natured banter.

But, while we are talking a pair of buzzards cleaving the air above us and goldfinches assaulting what must be the last seeds remaining in a teasel seed head everything feels turned around. We are sailing towards spring, warmer weather, germination, lighter days … then summer!

And it feels like it: positive and going somewhere as opposed to just jogging on the spot.


* I often say “there are a hundred gardeners hereabouts, so a hundred different best ways of growing the best potatoes”. (Though I may have paraphrased a wiser gardener!)

** Rents have just been paid and it’ll be a few weeks before we know who is keeping plots on – and meet the “newbies”.


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