Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The dark side

Spring time. Well, March anyway – time at last for sowing seeds, and the last chance for clearing beds of the rotting bedraggled remnants of last year’s splendour and, in doing so, banishing all memories of a wet and miserable year. Lengthening days, air noisy with the chatter of birds, buds on the brink of bursting, soil warming as the sun gathers strength with every passing day. Gladdened by the prospect of the new year and the end of the long, dark winter, we rashly peal off layers of warm clothing and head for the garden, to be met with ferocious, bitter winds, the coldest March night in 26 years, and three and a half inches of snow. The snow, which started suddenly at half six on Monday morning, continues to fall heavily and apparently, eschewing tradition, almost horizontally, until noon the next day, at which time the sun suddenly appears and begins to melt it away. But by this time we’ve had an evening of travel chaos, schools are closed and gardening plans seriously disrupted.

You’ll pardon us in Kent if we feel confused; the more cautious of us were expecting winter to have a sting in the tail (I may I fear even have predicted it in my last post) but, considering the last couple of weeks have been warm enough to work outside in shirt sleeves, excepting Friday’s torrential rains, it’s hard to plan when the weather is quite so capricious. Suffice to say, it would seem safe to suppose the next week or so will see colder than average temperatures. I wouldn’t mind that if only we could be sure of some decent light – at this time of year, it’s important to resist the temptation of sowing seeds too early and then running the risk of the seedlings going all weak and leggy as they struggle through the gloom. But this is gardening, and there are precious few guarantees. Especially, it would seem, in March.

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