Time and tide wait for no man, nor do the seasons. The oystercatchers “speed dating club” has been in action for weeks with noisy groups of birds gathering in the fields, voraciously probing for invertebrates and acting like hormone-fuelled teenagers. The skylarks are rather more refined and have been proclaiming their territories with glorious song-flights as soon as a mere glimmer of sunshine squeezes between the clouds. Several pairs of shelducks have been waddling around the croft and swimming in the cottage beach cove just like young married couples looking a “des res”. The temperature may still be arctic, but as far as the birds are concerned, the increasing day length is the trigger for procreation preparations.
In the garden there are finally signs that some plants are starting to grow, some of the herbaceous perennials are showing flashes of green and the bulbs have finally appeared. Apart from a few stalwarts, there is really not much sign of flowering. Similarly in the greenhouse and polytunnel the cold weather has had an obvious affect on the rate of growth and flower production.
There is a complex interaction between day length and temperature on growth and flower production in plants. I get fidgety when I see everyone’s glorious spring gardens when mine still resembles barren tundra, but I know that although increasing day length is a stimulus for plant growth, the cooler temperatures are an inhibiting factor and when the plants do eventually start growing there will be less risk of damage from wintry weather in February and March. However, this will not protect them from the equinox gales which often arrive at the end of March! It is also interesting to note that when I look over the garden wall, there very few signs of growth in the native plants, they are obviously more highly adapted to the local conditions than my introduced garden plants. Nature wins every time.
As a gardener I’m not immune to the spring imperative, although the procreative urge is directed towards sowing seeds. It is still too early to think about producing plants for the garden, but it is time to start with sowing seed for the early salad greens, new season carrots, spinach and radishes, in the bed in the polytunnel. Always a very satisfying occupation on a sunny afternoon when the cold wind has a sharp edge. It is also time to plant the salad potatoes in the polytunnel and to start to think about when to plant the tomato seeds. Although I’m hyperactive and buzzing with garden plans, I’m still waddling around the garden cocooned in numerous layers and buried under a wooly hat and a scarf. There is just a touch of warmth in the sun and already it is time to begin the spring offensive and start the weed eradication campaign again.