In Saturday’s warm spring sunshine, new leaves and buds were almost visibly unfurling as you watched.

Horse chestnut leaves emerging mid-April

The front garden was full of first flowers that had sprung up seemingly overnight: the first hybrid tulips, the pale cups of Apricot Beauty; our first rich velvety wallflowers, Erysimum cheiri ‘Blood Red’; and a delicate greenish-white bloom on Anemone coronaria ‘Mount Everest’.

Anemone 'Mount Everest'; Erysimum cheiri 'Blood Red'

The Tulipa sylvestris were basking in the warmth, their golden stars aglow in the lush green grass, echoed in a cluster of celandines and a dandelion nearby.

Tulipa sylvestris flower

Tulipa sylvestris flower

After a walk around the garden, exclaiming over each new treasure, we got down to the day’s work: predominantly tackling the remaining bed in the kitchen garden to finish our preparations. Birdsong filled the blue skies as we worked in short-sleeves, the incessant wind blissfully absent for the day.

We cleared the bed of the pallets, excess logs for the house and other bits and pieces that had gathered here over the months. For three or four hours then I worked the ground with a fork, breaking up the clay that had compacted into concrete over the long wet winter, painstakingly removing the weeds embedded in the chunks of clay.

King of the Hill worked nearby, servicing the lawn mower, trimming the grass, planting out the chitted potatoes and broad beans raised in the greenhouse, and putting up poles ready for the runner beans which have not yet been planted.

Broad beans planted out

After a hasty late lunch mid-afternoon, King of the Hill joined me on the battleground of the middle bed, and after a couple more hours of hard work side by side, we had finally cleared it of weeds, and could rotavate the ground to further break up the lumps of clay.

Preparing the middle vegetable bed for planting

With aching backs, and dirt-streaked faces, we finally put away our tools and limped back to the house in search of hot water and food as afternoon turned to evening.

Vegetable bed ready for planting

A hard day’s work, but at last the kitchen garden is ready for planting and a weight has eased from our shoulders.

Sunday was a cooler and mostly dull day, with little opportunity for gardening, though I did manage to sow some seeds in the greenhouse late in the day. By yesterday, the sunshine seemed a distant memory in a world once more cold, grey and streaked with drizzle.  Come back, Spring!


21 thoughts on “Prep

  1. You evidently made the most of the “window of opportunity”. I suspect that the sequence you describe was repeated throughout the land on Saturday!

  2. I know how you feel in you last comment Sara, I feel the same, Friday was our sunny day up here, since has been wind and rain!

    you did work hard Saturday, a well deserved rest on Sunday, digging is hard work especially in wet weed infest ground, in future years could you consider doing what someone here told me they do, she covers her veg bed with black polythene in winter to stop it being over grown by weeds, she said it doesn’t look nice but saves the work of digging the weeds out in spring, I intend doing that with the veg beds I’ve now made or growning a green manure,

    how benifical do you find the rotavater? I’ve been looking at them as I find digging is getting harder as I get older but wonder if it would be worth the expense, I also wonder how heavy they are would I be able to use it! that’s not a question to you, I notice that when ever you mention yours it is always King of the hill that uses it, have you ever used it and if so how do you feel about using it?
    don’t feel you have to answer, I will understand if you don’t, Frances

    • Funnily enough, we have packets of green manure that we intended to sow last year, but never got round to. We were discussing that and indeed covering any empty beds with black plastic as we wrestled with the weeds in the compacted earth. I think we will definitely be doing one of these next year to avoid having to do this again!

      We find the rotavator invaluable. As long as we have removed the perennial weeds first so as not to spread them around, it then makes short work of breaking up our heavy clay. A couple of runs and the earth has been transformed into a loose crumb that we can actually plant into.

      I must confess that I’ve not used the rotavator myself – it is definitely one of my husband’s pleasures! I know he finds ours quite a beast to control, it is quite a large old one that his mum gave us which his dad used to use on their plot for many years. She replaced it with a smaller lighter one, which suits her on her smaller veg patch these days, and which she wields quite happily, even despite some arthritis in her hands. So I’m sure that you would find one that suits you, and it does make a huge difference for us in getting workable ground.

      • thanks Sara, there are heavy looking petrol ones but I am thinking of the lighter weight electric ones, I did wonder if it was a ‘boys toy’ 😉

  3. How lovely that the good sunny, gardening day was at the weekend! We had a weekend with rain forecast for both days but that were actually almost fine, not sunny or warm but OK. Your veg beds look beautiful, but don’t you find that a lot of weed seed has been brought to the surface by the digging and rotavating? Christina

    • Yes, we couldn’t have asked for a better weekend day, it was lovely.
      With the vegetable beds, we had no choice but to dig, as couch grass and creeping buttercup in particular were embedded in the packed earth, and with no protection over winter the heavy clay had compacted like concrete. Hairy bittercress was flowering across the bed too, and is almost impossible to hoe when the ground is so hard, but definitely needed removing before it could add another crop of seeds to the earth.

      The soil is rich and full of worms, and we add compost to it each year to help lighten it gradually, but we need to dig out the weeds and rotavate it to be able to plant into it at all. We will have weeds coming up regardless of whether we dig, but we can hoe out the annuals or hoik out dandelions and perennials as they appear, particularly easy when the ground has been loosened in this way.

  4. Busy busy busy – am exhausted just reading this; you must have been truly shattered. Never rotivated myself (spellchecker keeps changing this to ‘rotated’), but often tempted

  5. I admire your stamina. I definitely couldnt dig for 3-4 hours. It does look good though and you must be very pleased

    • Thanks Helen, it was a bit of a slog; we couldn’t have done it again for a second day! It’s a relief to have it done – one less thing at the back of my mind, or glaring me in the face when I look out the windows – and I am really pleased with the result.

  6. Saturday was lovely. We were at the plot and didn’t get back till 7pm and were exhausted. My body is in bits at the moment. It’s great though to get a lovely sunny day to get so many jobs done. Going to see if I can haul my aching limbs out to the greenhouse this afternoon. 😉

  7. I know how pleasurable those first days out in the garden can be. And each new bloom sometimes gives more pleasure than a whole bed bursting with flowers.

  8. How lovely that your kitchen garden is prepared. It’s a huge space so I can understand how painful it must have been turning hard clay soil over.

    Lovely photo’s of all your

  9. A great day’s work – so satisfying to have all that area cleared and rotavated and ready for action, and worth the late lunch and aching limbs, I am sure! The Tulipa sylvestris look particularly lovely – like you say, buds and leaves seem to be opening and unfurling as you watch.

    • A satisfying day’s work indeed. It’s amazing how much has changed by each evening this week, everything is popping all over the place!

  10. Its such a busy time, seems like from reading lots of blogs that everyone is busy catching up with jobs. So good that we had nice weather at the weekend, lets hope for more of the same this weekend.

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