Spring Rituals

Spring has arrived. If you need dates to fix the seasons, then spring either started on Wednesday (the spring equinox) or on 1st March if you use the meteorological definition. Looking around here, it feels as though spring is slowly rolling in. It’s been slightly warmer and a lot less windy than earlier in the month. The days are getting longer and brighter and the birds sing and chatter loudly. The blackthorn hedges are veiled in white blossom that blows in the wind and falls to the ground like confetti amongst the new, bright green new growth of cow parsley, grass and cleavers.

Hidden in amongst the greenery, violets of every hue from white to deep violet (surprise, surprise) flower in shady places. To me, the appearance  of primroses and violets marks the true start of spring. One of the best places to find violets on the farm is just on the edge of the yard, in the shade of the tree where the dog cocks his leg every day as we set off on our walk. Hmm. Maybe those ones are just best left untouched for everyone to admire.

As ever, there are certain spring rituals that I’m drawn to each year.

A posy of violets picked for the bedside table. Every now and then, I catch their scent as it drifts across the room. My favourite flower fragrance: fleeting, floral and nostalgic. My perfume of choice.



Some years I make Violet Syrup or Violet Jam but this year my fad is for Violet Tisane (well, this week at least). A couple of tablespoons of violet flower heads steeped in near boiling water for a few minutes produce a vibrant deep turquoise drink. It’s worth drinking for the colour alone, but it also tastes deliciously of violets, without the normal  sweetness of jams and syrup.


I take no interest in the garden during the winter but in spring I have a sudden burst of enthusiasm. A few seed packets have been gathered ready for spring sowing, but first there’s the small matter of constructing the raised beds. We moved house last spring and have had no vegetable garden of our own since then but very slowly, the garden is beginning to take shape and the first of the beds are almost ready for sowing with carrots and beetroot.


The banks of the ditches that form the field boundaries are slowly filling with pale yellow primroses, which has me reaching for the Jelly Plate. The jelly plates have been badly treated, stacked away under printing stuff since the autumn, but have emerged relatively unscathed. It’s good to print with small spring leaves and flowers on a small jelly plate and get back into the swing. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you might want to read this beginner’s guide to jelly printing.

The tracks around the fields have been a bit wet and claggy after the glorious walking further afield in Tasmania and it’s been a bit gloomy tramping around in the mud. With luck, now spring is here, the sun will shine and there’ll be plenty of walking.


Do you have spring rituals? Or maybe you’re slipping into autumn. Do tell.

the garden in May



Smelling: lilac

Sowing: runner beans, French beans, carrots, beetroot and salad leaves

Harvesting: asparagus and rhubarb

Watching: parsley and chard go to seed

vegetable garden in May

Some years our vegetable planting is planned in January, seeds are bought in good time and diligently sown in gutters in the greenhouse or in well prepared seed beds in the garden. But some years, there are so many distractions that planning and forethought go out of the window. 2015 is proving to be one of those years.


We sketched out the planting plan on the back of the envelope back in January but the envelope inadvertently disappeared into the recycling bin so everything has been sown a little haphazardly. Then the guinea fowl decided that Bill’s beautifully prepared seedbeds were perfect for dust baths and decimated the newly emerged carrots and beetroot. Words were spoken. Guinea fowl and shooting were mentioned in the same sentence. Netting has since been erected.


under the apple trees

The flower border consists mainly of perennials and self-sown flowers and weeds. I’m not much of a flower gardener and often mistakenly pull out the flower seedlings while nurturing what turns out to be a massive weed. That’s fine if the weed is pretty, but alas they rarely are. Each May is a surprise as the border erupts into colour, while under the apple trees the forget-me-not and cow parsley push through the long grass.

All with very little effort on my part. My sort of gardening.

in the garden – June 2013

herbs and flowers

herbs and flowers mixed together by the back door

This month I am linking up with Lizzie of Strayed from the Table for The Garden Share Collective.  The aim is to create a community of bloggers who share their vegetable patches, container gardens and the herbs they grow on their window sills.

Where our vegetable garden is situated used to be a very bumpy grassed area, known as The Tennis Court even though tennis hadn’t been played there for twenty years. It seemed unreasonable that this dark and damp place, on the north side of the house, was where the children played while the vegetable garden basked in sunshine on the sunny south side of the house so, we built a new wall across the middle of the tennis court, grassed over the original vegetable garden and started a new vegetable patch. I grow my herbs mixed in with flowers on the sunny south side.

The raised beds, contained by railway sleepers, have made weeding a far more manageable task than the previously daunting prospect of tackling long rows in a large, traditional vegetable bed.

garden plan 2013

Each January, we make a plan for sowing that’s pinned up by the back door. We don’t stick to it rigidly, but at least it’s a guide and when Bill gets busy on the farm and abandons the vegebables, at least I can work out what he’s sown and not hoe them out thinking they’re weeds. Sometimes we even remember to write up the varieties.


runner beans

This spring was wet and cold so we got off to a late start. Experience has taught me that seeds sown into our cold, clay soil never come to much so it’s always better to wait for some spring warmth. Consequently, our runner beans and climbing French beans are still at ground level (and also because pigeons keep pecking the leaves). The theory of tying the canes in the middle is that the beans are more accessible than by using the more traditional tepee like structure, but I’m not sure how well it will work.

successional sowing of beetroot and carrots

Successional sowings of beetroot, carrots, salad crops and sugar snap peas have been made. You can see the different sowing dates of the carrots and beetroot in the photo above.

Runner beans, climbing French beans, lettuce, tomatoes, parsley that were sown in pots under cover have been planted out

swiss chard seedlings, potatoes behind

We sowed chard (above), fennel, dill, runner and climbing beans and in the greenhouse are growing basil next to the tomatoes because I love the smell when I open the greenhouse door in the mornings.

Less successfully, the leeks have germinated very poorly and all but one of the squash  died off. Cold, wet weather coupled with general apathy meant that we also have a few unopened packets of seeds.



We’ve finished cutting asparagus – we generally cut from St George’s Day until Derby Day and then let the asparagus grow up before cutting down in the autumn.

Rhubarb is still growing well but is eaten with rather less enthusiasm than previously.


Gooseberries are almost ready

Cherries are growing under a net (over a cage made with scaffold poles that you can see behind the runner bean bed) and we have a few that are just turning red. We’re hoping that the netting will stop the birds eating more cherries than we do.

next month

We’ll sow more peas and hope to pick the first of the beetroot, carrots and peas together with gooseberries, cherries, raspberries, loganberries, the first of the new potatoes and salad leaves.

tomato plants

I need to remember to water the tomatoes in the greenhouse, keep tying them up and to sideshoot them. This year I’m growing Super Marmande, Golden Sunrise, Ailsa Craig and Gardener’s Delight. There were too many plants for the greenhouse so the surplus were planted in the vegetable garden.

globe artichokesI may harvest the globe artichokes poking up amongst the alchemilla mollis and feverfew or I might just leave them in situ because they look so handsome.

Happy gardening.