Outside the frost seems to have passed and the weathermen say it’s warmer. Note; warmer, not warm!
The rising temperature means the bulbs are pushing their tiny heads through the soil now and soon we will have clothes of gold all over our borders, pink blossoms coating the cherry trees and Viburnum and the fresh green leaves are starting to unfurl like tiny flags welcoming the sunshine. The rain has dampened the pavements but hardly penetrated the earth to any useful extent yet. We shall see how March begins before we’ll know what weather it will bring. The old saying of ‘in like a lion, out like a lamb’ has proven itself many times recently. In previous years, If the first days of March were blowy and wet, then the beginning of April was heralded with balmy days and persistent sunshine, if the month began calm and mild, then woe betide anyone planning a holiday later.
This sort of rural folklore has always been held dear to the gardener, maybe because we see the effects of the weather more intimately in the garden. The abundant fruits that form on the autumnal trees and shrubs hint at a cold winter to follow, the birds will need the berries and nuts to survive the colder weather and mother nature provides.
As I hope the next few weeks will be mild enough to allow my crops to survive, I have started preparing more ground. The trench for my early potatoes, those beloved nuggets that spell hot summer and salads on the lawn, has been dug and lined with well rotted manure. The second sowing of peas has gone in and the shallots, all 20 of them, are nested in the soil beside the cauliflowers that have been over wintering.
Shallots, for those who don’t know, are one of the group of plants called Alliums. The onion family, containing such varieties as Spring onions, Leeks and Garlic as well as many ornamentals. Some, like the Chives, are grown for their leaves, others, such as garlic, for the bulb and some are almost completely devoured as in the case of the national favourite of Wales, the Leek. Unlike most onions, the Shallot is most commonly grown by division rather than from seed. The 20 bulbs I have planted, if they grow as I hope they will, should provide me with approximately 200-300 more bulbs in the autumn because they swell and divide into clones of themselves rather than just increasing in girth as kitchen onions do.
Like their cousins though, they make a great pickle for Christmas cold cuts!
As a side point, I must mention something about the manure. When I ordered a delivery through the guys at my site distribution hut, I merely expected horse or stable manure. I never realised I would be fortunate enough to benefit from a local industry that few of our national compatriots can hope to find. When the load arrived, I recognised the supplier from the familiar shapes I se on our beaches. Yes, just as in the TV commercials, this is not just manure, this is Weston donkey manure….