‘Gardening leave’: what a wonderful expression for something not usually considered very appealing. As most of us are housebound, or if we’re lucky house and garden bound, it’s great to view the minute day-to-day changes in the garden. We are often on holidays in spring, missing out on certain key developments in the garden, such as the full extent of apple blossom time, or Laburnum’s golden, but short lived, beauty. This year’s Sicily holiday bit the dust, so we are at home all day every day, except for grocery trips and walks.
New life is everywhere, in the ground and in the air, nature is not bothered about humanity’s crisis. Our walks by the nearby Grand Canal reveal families of ducklings taking to the water. The first swallows arrived in early April, and we have heard the cuckoo across the bog twice in the last week. Our robins have two fat speckled chicks running around under the front hedge and flying up into the leafy cover. Two pairs of blackbirds are busy feeding, but we haven’t seen the young yet.
We are blessed also with almost-summer weather for the last six weeks, making confinement bearable. The unfurling apple blossom, its progress noted every day, has been a joy. The vegetable beds are also coming to life, I have planted a succession of peas, Early Onward and Sugar Anne, potatoes, strawberries, lettuce and radish are coming along well. I am trying Alpine Strawberries from seed and they are coming on in the glasshouse. I sowed several varieties of tomato, Sungold, Rouge de Marmande, San Marzano and Cherry Cerise, they are now large plants and have taken up residence in the glasshouse.
We had visited the garden centre at Johnstown in early March to stock up on bird feed, compost, seeds and other necessities. However, the lockdown came unexpectedly one week later and I was not really prepared for a long-term siege. I do not have all of my new seeds in and I’ve been sowing last year’s seed. My main concern is with courgette seed, they need to be fresh every year. About three weeks ago I sowed three varieties of last year’s seed in covered pots in the glasshouse, and nothing has emerged. I have now taken special care with my last four seeds of Firenze F1, cocooning them on the window sill, and I think I can spot some delicate green movement. Normally reliable Rainbow Chard and Runner Beans have not germinated from old seeds. Online suppliers are overrun and are either sold out of certain seeds, or have a three or four week delay in delivery. I’m hoping for a relaxation of restrictions before it is too late to sow.