On Tuesday, trudging up to the Old Kitchen Garden for more winter digging, my thermal undergarments hung distinctly heavy on me. The earliest of early weeds, Cleavers, or Sticky Willie as he’s known to his friends, was cagily creeping across the soil surface. With the dry weather forecast on our side, we had a hoe down on the rows of broad beans. And spring was in my step: whether it was the amplified bird song; a subtle tone change in the forest that embraces, and bleeds into, the site; or the minute vibrations of sap rising around us, I don’t know. All I know is that thick-thin rush pulsing up through me: growth is returning.
The plants that have hunched with us through a hard winter are beginning to stretch yawningly, first in the glasshouse,then al fresco. In the former, the rocket is already bolting. Even the escarole, which for the last few months has been complaining that it would rather have been left at home on the Med in the first place, is starting to look less sorry for itself.
The day came to a glorious close with a second planting of broad beans, on the extended perimeters of the garden: a kidney-shaped full stop on cold days spent chipping away at the bramble knuckles.
Despite its infinite wisdom, even nature makes false starts sometimes, and some of the weather prophets are still talking of a returning Siberian snap. But here at Hawkwood, we know it is time to dust down the potting benches: when our elders, Ken and Brian, start seiving leaf mould, it is a sure sign that the seed sowing season is upon us.