Spring has sprung. We wake to another weekend of clear blue skies, festooned with lazy vapour trails. Dewdrops sparkle across the fresh green grass in the cool sunshine, and snatches of birdsong float on the breeze.
Sadly, I have spent the best part of the last week wrestling with a bout of ‘flu, to which King of the Hill has also now succumbed. It left me capable of reading or posting little all week, so forgive my rather minimal appearance of late.
There had been plenty of action in the garden the previous weekend though, before we fell ill; a weekend that we extended with a few days of leave for us both. King of the Hill built us another fine structure for the garden; this time a storage unit to house empty pots and tarpaulins, freeing much-needed space in the shed. The shelves are set against the far end of the shed, hardly visible from the house; sloping roof and feathered sides characteristic of the wood stores he has built nearby.
I spent some hours weeding the main border, digging out clumps of grass and weeds, so that now the delicate snowdrops along the edge and the nearby green shoots of other bulbs to come are much more visible against the neat dark earth. Slow aching work, but rewarding: working so close to the earth it was impossible to miss the signs of emerging life everywhere, and the results are always pleasing.
King of the Hill dug out the last standing vegetables in the kitchen garden; we feasted on parsnip, leeks and celeriac for days. Then the tarpaulins were pulled over the empty beds to warm the earth ready for this year’s planting, and a small plastic tunnel erected over the failed autumn-sown broad beans, to prepare this area for early protected crops instead.
Meanwhile, I dug out the majestic cardoon nearest the house, resigning its denuded stump to the compost heap to be chopped up. It had outgrown its space, having given us a glorious performance last year while the newly dug borders were so bare; now it threatened other plants nearby. I have not yet decided whether to leave either of the other two cardoons that are coming back into leaf further down the garden. I must assess them soon.
Towards the end of one long day, I emptied the greenhouse and scrubbed the glass inside from top to bottom with disinfectant, removing built up algae to leave the glass slightly smeary but clean. I wiped the last pane as the light was fading fast just after half-past five; wonderful to squeeze the last drops of light from the lengthening days.
The following day, we embarked upon a project that we had been contemplating since the autumn. King of the Hill fixed rails along one section of the sloping roof of our biggest wood store, and built four wooden planters to sit snugly onto these. Drainage holes were made in the bases, which we then lined with crocks before squeezing grow bags in, opening the tops and manipulating the contents to fit the planters. Then we put eight strawberry plants into each of the four planters, and raised them up onto the south-facing roof.
Here, strawberries will bask in the sun uninterrupted all through the long summer days, adding to the crops that we pick from our more conventional strawberry patch nearby, which is already trying to expand into the lawn. The planters are free for us to move along the rails as required, or we can lift them down from the roof (carefully!) if we need to.
Eight of the plants in one container were runners from our own patch, the other planters were each filled with eight plants from three different varieties bought from Otter Farm at the end of last summer for this purpose; a selection of early, mid and late fruiting plants to span the season. There is already fresh growth on all the plants as they settle into their new homes a week later.
We still have more trays of our own runners that have overwintered near the greenhouse. If this trial is successful, then we may use these to fill further planters along the adjacent sections of the wood store until they span the whole run. Not just a green roof, then, but a strawberry roof! We’re certainly trying to make every inch of our garden work hard for us.
Yesterday, the scents of spring through an open window tempted us out, but our attempts to engage with the garden quickly left us shaking and weak, certainly not feeling our best, so we resigned ourselves to gentler preoccupations for the rest of the day.
Today was another mild sunny day, and I finally felt sufficiently recovered to venture out into the garden for a few hours’ gentle work. I tackled the weeds springing up in the raspberry patch, digging out rough grass, moving errant raspberry canes that have sprung up between their rows and strawberries that have crept in from their adjacent patch. We have even more spare plants for our strawberry roof now!
The air stood remarkably still today, and the sunshine was hot on my back as I knelt on a folded sheet of cardboard on the damp earth, trowel in hand, and worked for several hours in a short-sleeved t-shirt, enjoying birdsong and the whirr of insects in the balmy silence. What a wonderful day, recuperation for body and soul.