Thursday, 15 March 2012

Dry spring

Fresh green buds breaking on the red stems of the dogwood Cornus alba 'Sibirica'

Mid March, unusually mild, and the sap is not so much rising as erupting, surging upwards through stem and branch and twig and rousing every bud it passes from its winter lethargy. With the exception of two days at the beginning of the month we’ve been spared the usual bitter winds, but we’ve also had yet another dry winter, with precious little rain forecast for the rest of the month.

But it shouldn’t be all doom and gloom for those who love their gardens.
Yes, we are staring down the wrong end of a potential hosepipe ban, but a warm, dry start to spring, following a mainly mild and dry winter does have its pleasant side — it’s dry underfoot now. Usually at this time of year I sink into the lawn as I walk across it which, dear reader, has nothing to do with being unusually fat. As winter recedes we want to be outside soaking up as much of the lengthening daylight as possible, and this is made much easier in the absence of buffeting winds and torrential rain.

Of course, we’ll need to think of ways to conserve water this year, and now’s a good time to check that we have water butts positioned to harvest as much of the rain as possible when it does fall. Doubtless later in the year we’ll cast longing glances at the hose coiled up against the wall as we make yet another trip along the veg patch with the watering can, but we’ve all survived past hosepipe bans and this time round we have the affordable electronic water butt pumpto make the task of garden irrigation less onerous. Perhaps the coming drought will encourage us to be more aware of our water use and spur us into thinking about ways in which we can use grey water on the garden, mulching our borders and beds to minimise the moisture lost from the soil. We’ll need to be clever about how and when we water our gardens, and maybe explore alternative approaches, like Hugelkultur, which I’m in the process of discovering and am very excited about (I hope to write more on the subject later in the year). But for now, we should just enjoy the spring.

This weekend, I predict the air will be thick with the sound of lawnmowers.