Whenever chatting with gardeners in spring, you are likely to hear things like: “The weather is two weeks ahead.” Or behind. Or whatever. It makes me wonder what spring ever became the ideal that every subsequent spring is measured against? I don’t know, so I find it hard to judge how much behind or ahead we are. This year however, I have something to contribute to the discussion: this year’s spring is at least four weeks ahead of last year’s. And I have a proof!
Those two pictures of flowering ornamental plums were taken from our bedroom window: the one on the left was taken mid April last year. The one on the right was taken two weeks ago.
March is always a pretty busy month, work-wise and garden-wise, but this year because all plants (and weeds) are in such a rush to grow up, it has been even more so. I have been sowing and weeding, writing several articles, giving lectures (on ornamental edible gardening and on permaculture) and teaching a course on edible forest gardens.
I have also taken two courses myself that I greatly enjoyed. One was on grafting fruit trees, something I had always wanted to learn. I came home with six interesting varieties grafted on dwarfing rootstocks: 3 apples (Pinova, Greensleeves, Champagne Reinette) and 3 pears (Herzogin Elsa, Red Williams, Coference). I planted the trees on our allotment and am waiting for them to show signs of life, fingers crossed.
The second was a bonbon making workshop at Bonbonatelier Jansen in the beautiful medieval city of Zutphen. Whenever I am in Zutphen I stop by to buy some of their excellent pralines. Alas, Zutphen is not exactly around the corner, so I thought learning to make them myself would be a good idea. I went with my dear friend Annemarie who also appreciates a good chocolate and we learned to make marzipan bonbons and started to penetrate the mystery of tempering chocolate.
Mr Jansen, the great chocolatier, explained about his dark chocolate combining beans from Tanzania and Kenya for a fruity flavor with an acidic aftertaste and how two batches can never be exactly the same because the flavor, as in wine, is hugely influenced by weather and soil.
At home, there’s a lot of sowing going on and then potting on as the plants emerge. This year I am growing 5 tomato varieties: Orange Currant, Matt’s Wild Cherry (a wild tomato), Ferline (blight resistant), Ida Gold (very early) and Losetto (also resistant). I hope that at least some of them can cope with whatever summer is coming our way.
I also remembered to use my block maker, and sowed my beets in soil blocks this time.
On the allotment, we covered the paths with a new layer of wood chips and added two new raised beds. They are made from Douglas pine which is naturally weather resistant and measure 3 x 1.2 meters. One of them is destined to house our Garden Connect experiment. We re still harvesting lots of salad leaves, mainly from the cold frame and a bed covered with horticultural fleece.
The soil is already pretty warm and I have direct sown carrots, parsnips, onions, radishes and lots of Oriental greens. The broad beans sown in February under fleece are finally coming up too. The possibly most important job was accomplished yesterday though – putting up a fence along the back of our plot. The rabbits are probably trying to find a weak spot in the fence right now and I sincerely hope they will not find any!
In our edible forest garden at home, Mirabelle de Nancy is flowering. It is right next to my cloth line and the sweet scent of the flowers and the humming of bees make hanging the cloths a pleasure. We’re enjoying the flowering spring bulbs, lots of crocuses and narcissi. We are already harvesting some of the early perennial vegetables, wild garlic and sorrel, among others. Pictured bellow are narcissi “Sir Winston Churchill” with perennial kale in the background.
Spring, you’re so much fun!