I can tell Spring is coming, as I am suddenly developing an interest in my garden again. Instead of wanting to hibernate inside in front of a fire, or cook dishes with lashings of cream and butter, my mind starts to turn to plans for outside. The days are getting longer, sometimes even warmer, and life is beginning to appear, even in my wild hilltop garden patch. Down in the valleys the daffodils are really getting going and there are catkins, buds and blossom appearing on the trees, but on my wind-whipped plot growth is a little more tentative. However, shoots are now well and truly popping up – proof that I will yet reap the benefits of a long Sunday spent planting over 200 bulbs (and that the resulting sprained wrist was worth it). My floods of tulips, daffodils, irises and alliums are still in my mind’s eye at the moment, but the musty bulbs that I planted in freezing, soggy ground months ago appear to have begun to flourish.
I suddenly start planning further – the vegetable patch. The got-away-from-me-last-year vegetable patch. The rather depressing yet impressive growth of nettles that have taken over about 30% of my patch in a matter of months. (I really don’t need to hear from another person how nettles are good for the butterflies – at this rate I will be feeding the West Wales butterfly population single-handedly). Now don’t get me wrong, last year started with great ambition – a beautifully dug over plot, fresh seeds bought in, baby seed potatoes chitting away, different varieties of seeds sown and labelled, some young plants bought in and planted direct. But somehow by the end of the year I ended up with the same result as the year before – a couple of massive courgette/marrows, broccoli plants that look like lace doilies coated in great fat caterpillars (that my chickens look at in revulsion when I dare to suggest that they might like to help me out with them), nettles instead of carrots and running-riot perpetual spinach. So this year…new plans!
This year I am going to accept a number of things:
- My heavy clay soil really really does not suit carrots.
- My cats/dog will immediately dig over/poo on/run through my carefully prepared seed drills.
- There is only so much that I can cram into one space before things start to look sad and crowded and feeble.
- I am really rubbish at staying on top of my weeding.
- The damn caterpillars will turn my broccoli into naked stalks if I don’t invest in some netting, as I never manage to pick them all off in time.
- I am never going to get on top of the nettles/giant hogweed growing out of my lawn under the buddleia without drastic measures.
With these faults solidly acknowledged I have made some plans/resolutions – these issues will not stop me! So, new ambitions for this year:
- Container gardening. Successful container gardening. I hope. All those things that have so far been a dismal failure in my veg patch are going to be stuffed into containers and thisyear so help me I will have some baby carrots with my Sunday roasts. Carrots, French beans, Mangetout peas, Swiss chard. Maybe even some Cavolo Nero kale – but that’s largely because I think it’s a really attractive plant, with its long dark green tongues for leaves standing tall.
- Weed suppressant matting. This, combined with lots of mulch, is going to be my weed-defeating champion and ally this year. Rather than trying to persuade my little baby seedlings to outgrow the rampant couch grass, chickweed, buttercups, etc that burst out of my veg patch every year, this year the whole plot is going to be covered in black weed suppressant fabric. A healthy layer of mulch, and I am going to put in just the veg plants that I know are large, vigorous and/or robust enough to beat any weeds to the planting hole. So potatoes, perpetual spinach, courgettes, maybe some runner beans.
- Buy the netting. Use the netting. Eat broccoli.
- Tackle the lawn-nettles and hogweed in the same fashion as the veg patch weeds; break out the black matting. Instead of endlessly hacking back and trying to maintain the border in line with the buddleia, I will cut a neat 2 foot wide strip of matting, dig it in around the base of the buddleia in a nice curve, mulch over it and stick some containers full of veg on top – two birds with one stone!
So I’m feeling quite excited about this years growing prospects – I’m full of that annual Spring optimism!