• Spring is almost sprung!

The garden is coming alive

My favourite time of year - there's something about the earth re-awakening - the bright fresh greens of new shoots - that is life affirming with the promise of harvests to come, food to prepare, share and enjoy. If you have kids, this is the perfect time to get them interested in the wonder of plants. Just think; the medlar (Mespilus germanica) we have recenty planted is a solar panel that arranges its leaves to maximise solar gain (its leaves turn sunlight into energy, stored as CO2-absorbing wood), reproduces itself, has beautiful blossom that starts off as white and then becomes pink and produces delicious fruit that makes a fantastic ice cream or chutney (I can let you have the recipes)… and is mentioned in four of Shakespeare's plays.

If you are a home-schooler why not make a photo diary of the garden coming alive. Try taking some real close-ups as well more general shots. To really appreciate spring flowers invest in a hand-lens and discover close-up the lovely patterns of common plants such as rosemary (below).

Weather alert!

Sunny but cold at night

It's official - it has been the coldest April since the 1980s with night-time frosts despite the sunny weather and just 10% of normal rainfall. So gardeners beware! Wait a few more weeks for the soil to warm up before you plant your seeds directly into the ground and don't plant out your veg seedlings yet.

French fruit farmers have been seriously hit by heavy frosts in early April which killed new shoots. Many wine growers were forced to use oil lamps in their fields to keep the cold at bay.

If you have planted out trees or shrubs over the winter (the best time because most are dormant) make sure you give them a good soak every fortnight so the water sinks deep into the soil, encouraging the roots to grow down rather than stay on the surface where they will dry out in the summer. Once they are established after 2-3 years you can relax and apply lots of mulch to conserve moisture.


Dave Richards

Dave studied geography and social science at Uni and then trained as a teacher. He has been involved in community growing projects since the late 70s - initially with city farms in Bristol and for the past 20 years at Reading International Solidarity Centre (RISC). He has been inspired by the RISC roof garden as it has matured into an oasis of edible calm in the town centre and was the inspiration for RISC's Food4families project that has created over 25 school and community gardens all over Reading.

Written on Saturday 24 April 2021

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