Groundwork

Another cold but dry weekend with a bitter south-easterly wind saw us wrapping up warm again to spend as much time in the garden as we could.

Daffodils in the spring sunshine

On Saturday, the sun took the edge off the low temperatures and for a time we even cast off our jackets to work in short sleeves. Beneath the glass of the cold frame, the air felt lovely and warm, and we rotavated the soil and sowed our first seeds inside it; a selection of salad leaves, carrots, beetroot and radishes.

Daffodil flowers

The daffodils around the garden are still putting on a good show despite the buffeting winds and ongoing frosts, glowing when the sun shines.

Herbaceous border re-emerging in spring

When the tall trumpet daffodils at the front of the long border have finished flowering this year, I am thinking of relocating them, probably to join the clumps in the grass around our pear trees. These large daffodils look so much happier naturalising in grass and around trees, than standing stiffly in the borders, although I also love them in our more formal narrow beds in the front garden, where WP Milner have succeeded from Rijnveld’s Early Sensation.

Narcissus WP Milner

With the daffodils in the back garden, it is not so obvious from the viewpoints above, but certainly when viewed from the house they seem rather out-of-sorts at the front of the widest part of this mostly herbaceous border. With their long slender stems and large flowers they form a rather disparate group, standing taller than anything around them at this time of year and looking almost forlorn bobbing by themselves.

Forlorn daffodils at front of wide border

The smaller narcissus dancing around their ankles are far more in keeping with a position at the front of the border, barely taller than the large Crocus vernus fading beside them; these are Rip Van Winkle, another of our new varieties added last autumn.

Narcissus Rip Van WinkleKing of the Hill chose these, captivated by the ruffled stars of their double flowers which unfurl with a greenish-yellow tint. There are very few double flowers in our garden, as I tend to favour less fussy single blooms, but I must admit that these are rather attractive, although the icy wind has left some of those in pots looking a little downcast.

Narcissus Rip Van Winkle

The gold of the daffodils is reflected at the back of the long border in the gentle smattering of flowers on our young Forsythia and nearby Kerria japonica.

Forsythia in bloom

New leaves are beginning to unfurl on willows, and shoots are pushing up through the earth in glowing clusters of green and red: the garden is really beginning to sing of Spring.

With rain and warmer temperatures finally forecast for the week ahead, I planted out a few more pots of young plants into the garden, and took what may prove to be the last opportunity to move plants before they are in active growth to relocate the self-sown pink primrose to the woodland end of the long border.

Self-sown pink primrose amidst aquilegia foliage

It settled in well amidst the fresh foliage of aquilegias, some of which are tinged with pink, with its yellow siblings romping nearby.

The lawns received their first cut of the year, and there was more serious work to be undertaken in the kitchen garden, as we continued preparing the beds for the season ahead. I dug the smallest bed in the autumn to plant garlic, which has stood defiant through the long winter. This weekend, we continued working across the longest bed, beside the new coldframe, digging out all the weeds before finally rotavating the ground.

Preparing the vegetable beds; before and after

Long vegetable bed; before and after cultivation

The salsify was dug up and brought into the house for preparation, with only a few leeks, a cabbage and a cauliflower left standing for a little longer. The brassica cages have temporarily moved to the last remaining kitchen bed to be worked, until we install them over this season’s cabbages which have yet to be sown.

Long vegetable bed after cultivation

With just the one central bed left to be rescued from debris and dug over, the kitchen garden is beginning to look tidier and ready for action. We are determined not to let it fall into such disarray again at the end of this year, hoping instead to sow green manures over any empty areas to enrich the ground rather than letting the perennial and annual weeds move in. Time will tell whether we manage to achieve this!

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23 thoughts on “Groundwork

    • Yes, very productive! One good thing about the slow arrival of spring is that it’s giving us a bit of time to catch up in the garden.

  1. You alwasy seem to achieve so much! I’m surprised you find it necessary to rotovate, you must just be bringing lots more weed seed to the surface, wouldn’t it be better to add your own compost or a good mulch to the top and let the worms do the work of mixing everything together. Your Daffodils are lovely and I agree that they do look at their best naturalized in grass. Christina

    • Thanks Christina. We garden on a thin layer of very heavy clay on rock, and before we came this area of the garden had been a long-neglected overgrown rubbish dump, so we still find it necessary to rotavate the ground each spring to be able to plant. We add whatever compost or mulch we create as well, though this is not in the quantities that it would like! The crops and the worms do their bit to help break up the soil too, but it is still like a sheet of concrete at this time of year.

      I think it is partly tradition too, as my husband’s father and grandfather always rotavated the earth, and in fact we acquired his father’s old machine, which is quite a workhorse. Digging out the weeds first is the hardest task, especially when the ground has been compacted by the winter. Then we can just run the machine over the earth and it is transformed. Growing a green manure will be a big help, hopefully we can be more organised this year!

  2. What a satisfyingly productive weekend you both have had – you are clearly raring to get stuck into all the sowing and tending!

  3. My daffodils are the only plants doing well in my garden at present. I have several kinds, all mixed together in a sort of cheerful blob at the front of the house. I chose them to flower over several months but many of the early ones are still flowering and many tall ones have joined in. It’s like an assembling choir. Maybe cold weather gives them longevity.

    I’m glad you mentioned moving the primula. I have cowslips to relocate and have been postponing doing so till the ground warms a little. Seems I have been making a mistake and should get them transferred and spread out soon.

    • The daffodils have been good this year, and most still going strong.
      I’m sure that waiting for warmer soil before moving your cowslips has been wise, I just worry about moving things too late!

  4. another good weekends work Sara, I feel like you that the delay of warm weather and dry period has meant I can get some jobs done that I can’t do when things start growing, my daffodils have not even started flowering yet this year, except the tete-a-tete that have been flowering well for some weeks now but are later than usual,
    your tall daffodils, I have some tall daffodils, some are in the damp meadow, some are along the base of a privit hedge, like your ones in your front garden under your beech hedge, if you would like some in your long border I would suggest moving them back nearer the shrubs by the fence, they won’t look out of place there and as your other plants fill out the foliage after they finish flowering won’t be so ‘on view’, also as you have not been there long I imagine they were only planted a couple of years ago so they have not bulked up yet, they will look better when there are more of them,
    Rip Van Winkle is similar to a double I have, I do not know the name of mine because they were from an old garden on Scalpay, they have multiplied well I’ve had them 12 years, some people do not like the green but I love the way the bud starts out with a greenish tinge and developes into a deep yellow, like you I’m not very keen on double flowers but these I like and I have seen the bees on them so they are not sterile like many doubles, Frances

    • Funnily enough, we discussed moving the daffs in that border to the back along the fence, and I was almost tempted, but I am likely to dig them up again there and I think they will look happier in a clump in the grass somewhere – perhaps added to our line along the beech hedge! I think we dug them up from the original garden, and then I obviously threw them in here, so they are not new but have not had much time to settle yet.

  5. It is definitely warming up – a slow but sure progress. I managed to spend two afternoons working at the allotment over the weekend so felt quite happy last night. Here that rain will be welcome when it arrives as the ground is definitely on the dry side. The cat certainly helps to put Rip’s stature into perspective. I like the green streak.

    • Little by little indeed. I was amused by the size of the cat vs the daffodil – there is a clump of Nepeta here and already he has identified it before it has even put on any new growth. I think I will have to put something over it to give it a chance to grow before all the shoots are nibbled off!

    • Ooh, our R. Early Sensation are finished now, they flowered from the first week of Jan until early March and were a bright rich golden yellow. The pale daffodils pictured are WP Milner which have taken over from them, they are rather lovely.

  6. Isn’t it great to finally get out and get things done. I love those Rip Van Winkle narcissus you’ve pictured, I shall have to look out for those as I can see them them fitting nicely into a spot in my garden 🙂

  7. You’ve been busy. 🙂 I wish I had sown some green manure last year but I find it a bit awkward to fit in with my planting. My beds tend to become free when it’s too late to sow any. Think it works well when you follow proper crop rotations and have large enough beds but for me it’s more of a case of squeezing as much into my available space.

    • We’re a bit limited on space so don’t follow a strict crop rotation either, so green manures will have to fit in around us if at all. I’d like to try though, we had some beds empty all winter (though we hope to change that too!).

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