By Sarah O'Neil
Spring is a cruel season. It taunts and teases us with its promise of warmer weather, luring us into a false belief the garden is good to go and it will get warmer from here on in. It gives us just enough sunny days in a row that we not only forget how cold cold can be but makes it impossible to imagine that winter like weather could possibly return.
But it does. And often catches us unawares, just when we thought it would be alright to leave tender seedling out on the BBQ table where they had been enjoying some all-day sunshine. It makes us complacent. She’ll be right.
But spring is not our friend at all and can’t be trusted. This is the season we need to be the most vigilant. We need to keep a close eye on the weather forecast and trust our instincts. One spring there was a frost in November that took out most of my tomatoes. I am now extremely suspicious of spring and don’t trust it at all.
Spring is all about moving forward slowly. Grabbing those sunny days to clear out the garden, and turn the soil over. Lovingly enriching it with organic matter, compost, fertilisers and whatever the crop you are growing will need to perform at its best. Taking time over the soil is the best thing you could do for your garden, as the quality of the produce will be defined by the quality of the soil.
However it is tempting to rush out there and do it in one go, to get the garden ready. But if you aren’t ready for such strenuous activity after a winter wrapped up warm indoors you may do more harm than good. Prepare yourself properly, like it is a sport, warm up and stretch before you start, and cool down afterwards. And you don’t have to do it all in one go. It will wait. Most of your plants don’t need to go in until October. Slow and steady wins the race.
And while we are caring about the health and wellbeing of the gardener, stay hydrated. Gardening is thirsty work. And also be mindful of that ever present sun. It maybe shining intermittently and seemingly weakly, but it is still there with the power to burn. So wear a hat and sunscreen. And don’t forget that often neglected spot on the small of your back where your pants meet your shirt as this area sees a lot of sun while you are bending over in the garden.
Being out in the sun can be a wonderful tonic for gardeners and seedlings alike, however seedlings can be caught out by springs peculiarities and a bright sunny day can come out of nowhere and fry your tender seedlings, sitting in their shallow seed trays, and even more so if they are behind some glass. They are sitting ducks to the season’s cruel streak.
When it comes to these small seedlings that will give us such wonderful things to eat and hold so much hope in their little leaves, we can’t afford to leave things to chance. All through September and into October we will be sowing the seeds that will bring a bountiful harvest, and they need all care and attention they can get as the opportunities for them to shrivel up are many. Fortunately failure at this time of year isn’t too much of a problem as there is plenty of time and opportunity to resow seeds or pop down to the garden centre and grab some that look just like yours did before whatever brought down their demise. No one need know.
So embrace spring as the season of hope and change, but treat it warily, like a frenemy. It is the most turbulent season we have, when we need it to be the most settled, for the sake of the seeds.
Daffodils in early Spring sun