It is that time again. Spring is slowly and reluctantly returning to England and although it makes one step forward and three steps back, it is on the horizon.
If you are a gardener (whether a you have a large vegetable garden or a few pots on your window sill), your green fingers are starting to itch. As soon as you spot a break in the rain shower or the temperature climbs an extra half a degree, you want to plant (don’t mention it out loud if your husband has four thousand blackcurrant cuttings waiting to go into the ground). You want to sow. You want to prune even (although, should you have over twenty acres of vines, the novelty of pruning soon wears off).
At this time of the year I make numerous laps around our garden to see which superheroes survived the winter and which poor strugglers didn’t. I celebrate (well, inwardly, anyway) every new shoot and leaf that appears above the cold, wet soil. I get a dreamy haze in my eyes every time I pass a garden centre.
A few years ago I was so impatient, that by mid February I had long, leggy and very very white tomato seedlings, that died immediately when touched. That taught me a lesson. Don’t rush it!
But I have to admit that this time I am slightly ahead. For a few years I have avoided one corner of the garden. It is right under a sprawling beech tree, so the soil is void of nutrients and in the summer is as hard as a rock. However, give it a half a second of rain and it mosses over. And the moss grows and spreads and generally rejoices in the shade of the beech. Every year I plan to rake it up so that proper grass can reclaim the spot. And every year I don’t get to it.
Except this year. In December I gave that corner to my chickens. They loved it. They said ‘thank you very much’ and got to work. Due to the frozen ground and other excuses (because that’s what they are…) we didn’t change the chicken run for a couple of months. Well the laziness paid off, I am glad to report! Ok, so the chickens destroyed all the grass and dug out numerous holes for their dust baths (which will make mowing that little bit more exciting – if the grass ever recovers), but in the process they scratched out all the moss out of the lawn.
What a genius solution, I thought. Until I realised that it would be me who would spend an hour raking up all the loose grass and moss.. Four wheelbarrows full.
Garden one, gardener nil.