Easter marks start of work in earnest

Good Friday is just a week tomorrow, and I'm wondering if we're ready for our traditional Easter-weekend start in our gardens.

Thursday, 17th March 2016, 10:39 am
Updated Friday, 18th March 2016, 10:01 am

This allegedly involves mowing the lawn, possibly for the first time this year, and planting favourite early potatoes, preferably with sturdy green shoots ready for action.

That is all dependent on the weather, of course.

Although we have worked outdoors the past few weeks, it’s mainly been around midday for a limited time, dividing up existing plants, introducing spring types for extra colour, and weeding as part of a general tidy-up before growth takes off.

However, from next weekend onwards the pace will increase. The time for planning and completing a wish-list of important jobs is gone.

As for the early potatoes – Foremost, Casablanca and Lady Christl – they’ll have to be planted with short shoots because standing on a cold greenhouse bench for a month has done little to encourage the chitting process.

Never mind, they’ll soon catch up once planted, and ten weeks is a reasonable growing period for earlies, so they’ll be a decent size by mid-June.

Our spring thoughts have turned to the equally-important consideration of friendly creatures in the garden.

First, it’s the modest pond which teems with animal life, none of which were introduced on purpose.

The pre-moulded outline, water and plants were purchased, and there were two attempts to introduce fish that mysteriously vanished – until a heron was caught in the act. Plan B was to leave well alone and see what happened. The result has been a wonderful response via natural occupation.

Birds bathe under a solar-driven fountain and newts rise to see what’s happening.

Frogs and toads come and go, feasting on would be garden pests. A big toad spends summer in the greenhouse border keeping tomato plants slug-free.

Water boatmen, diving beetles and damsel flies bring it alive in summer. Goodness know where they all came from, but they’re welcome.

Maintenance of this entertaining feature is never too demanding.

Birds are the other joy in this garden. We are presently leaving small deposits of horse hair in different parts to aid nest-building. The chaffinch, goldfinch and dunnock will collect it for sure, but the blackbird takes first prize for improvisation.

A study some years ago involved the dissection of their old nests. Building materials used included newspaper, polythene, string, a shoelace and cigarette filters.