Spring has sprinted forth with crisp, dry days however low temperatures demand caution when sowing seed. In my polytunnel the first seedlings of lettuce, rocket, broccoli and various Asian salad leaves have emerged. I have been covering them with fleece by night to give some protection. Once temperatures rise by a few degrees, I will prick them off into pots and trays. As I have often mentioned, sowing little and often is the key to a continual harvest. I use the glass and newspaper method; however adhere to whichever technique proves successful. Outside, an endless list of chores awaits me. I recently massacred a pussy willow shelter-belt, reducing its height by half. It had missed its annual clip last year and required serious pruning. I’ve had to forfeit the pretty catkins which were just developing, so delay until later if one wishes to retain these.
Pruning back fennel to ground level along with any other untidy comrades is essential. Also top-dress all plants with an organic soil enricher such as garden compost or choose a commercially produced brand of processed manure or seaweed. I like to mix a handful of granular fertilizer through this to give the plants that extra boost they need right now: this annual application works wonders! I have had to relinquish my all time favourite potato variety Home Guard for more blight resistant new-comers, such as Orla and Coleen. They are chitting (sprouting) indoors. Choose a cool, light location and position them upright in trays or egg boxes. This will give their growth a head start. I am also trying a new main-crop variety called Sarpo Mira, which I am told is fantastically blight resistant. However seeing is believing; my potatoes are always plagued, especially in recent wet summers!
The first flowers to break the bleakness in my garden are miniature daffodils, Ribes sanguingea (red flowering currant) and yellow Cytisus scorparius (common broom). The addition of a pond last year excites me with the prospect of frogs gobbling up those luring slugs. My three goldfish have survived the cold and the heron. They are slowly beginning to exercise again after their winter rest. Pond plants are still dormant except for Mentha aquatica (water mint) which modestly displays one shoot! Like all herb plants it hides a multitude of secrets, the leaves evidently make a pungent peppermint tea which will no doubt accentuate a pleasant end to a hard working day!