Spring has sprung! Thus setting the scene for the massive gardening fail later on!

Spring has sprung! Thus setting the scene for the massive gardening fail later on!

(Pictured above: the sort of scene that only excites the sort of people who post on Allotment Life, so apologies for the niche interest.)

Spring took its sweet time about it, too. Truly, we have had a winter like the ones child-me thought were “supposed” to happen, where the ground was covered with snow more often than not, and every time I ran outside with a spade I was beaten back into the house by a big blast of hail from one of a number of ‘Beasts from the East’ (can we call them Easterlies already? Or, just ‘wind’?)

The snow was great, actually. One day we got our first ever Red Weather Warning (they only brought them in last year, which might have something to do with it) and the snow stopped me going to work, woo! Then I had to make up the hours later, of course, but it’s the principle of the thing. The only problem with the snow is its fragility. If someone so much as steps on it, or it melts even a little bit, come nightfall it’s transformed into ice, which is a whole different ballgame. (I don’t remember ice being a problem when I was a child. Probably because I weighed about a fifth of what I do now, so falling on my face wasn’t such a big deal).

Still, in between the various Beasts, the garden’s all prepped for the rest of the year. I might have gone slightly overboard on the number of fruit bushes that needed weeding and composting. It might also be that planting a fifty-metre hedge entirely composed of thorns was not my smartest move. Every time I went in with a shovel-full of mulch for the ungrateful thing, it grabbed me by the hair and I had to fight my way free.

The good news is, the newly-reinforced greenhouse has (touchwood) stood up to the storms so far. Mostly because they came from the east and it’s sheltered by the house from that direction. Three years of tending a mighty, spiky hedge to try and keep the westerlies off – we’re kinda elevated, so there’s nothing at all between here and the hills of the west coast but wind – and suddenly it’s all coming from the other direction. Where there is a whole street, nay, village, and trees and high fences and you name it as a barricade and none of it seems to stop the wind a damn, so… yeah. A single hedge. Well, it seemed a good call at the time.

Nothing I planted in the greenhouse has come up yet, however, because it’s too sodding cold. I predict another cold snap, too, because I just got the raised beds planted. Not that it’s all about me, of course, but next door have planted theirs too and therefore we’re doomed. You can set your watch by the weather round here; the heavens open at going-to-work time, school-run time and evening rush hour, with enough kept back for a sudden downpour once enough washing’s been hung on a sunny day. Tis a cunning beast.

Anyway! The garden is now all set up to produce: basil, cabbages, four types of chilli peppers, courgettes and cucumbers, leeks, parsnips, peas, runner beans, swedes, tatties, tomatoes and tomatillos. In the perennial beds, we have rhubarb and borage; in the tubs there are strawberries, blueberries and oh god I still need to pot out and compost the herbs. Fruit bushes and trees: gooseberries, currants of all three colours, goji berries (ha. These guys apparently live in the Himalayas and ‘thrive on cold and windy conditions’. Not so far), raspberries, elderberries, cherries, plums, apples, rowans and a single, rather optimistic pear tree. The hedge might yet do something useful if the hazelnuts and rose-hips and sloes ever get going.

I mention all this so later, when I report on the solitary parsnip that comprises the entire harvest, the contrast will be extra emphasised.

The other thing that happened this spring is, we had a wood-burning stove installed. You know, just in time for it to not be cold enough to need one. Since the garden was a massive grove of feral Leylandii when we moved in, getting rid of the buggers left a colossal pile of logs, so it made sense to make use of them. We thought.

But lo, the guys fitting the wood-burning stove casually pointed out that Leylandii is, apparently, the Wrong Sort of Wood for wood-burning stoves. Too much resin, burns too fast, something something. Let this be a lesson to everyone else to do your homework before forking out; also, if the neighbours offer you cash for something you’re not immediately gonna use, for godsake take the money and run!

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