FEBRUARY is just a week old, so that means we’re not out of the winter woods yet.
But take heart – the daffodils are poking up their tightly-budded heads while many are in full cry, as are snowdrops, crocuses, aconites and those fabulous hellebores.
As I write, there’s a warning of nasty conditions on the horizon and due to blow across the UK, so hammer in those tent pegs and keep your heads down!
In my own greenhouse, many seedlings have germinated and are peeping above the soil-line, delphiniums, erodiums and a new batch of sweet peas because not all my autumn-sown seed survived for reasons that baffle.
And now, as dear old Max Bygraves would say, I’m going to tell you a story: Last July we went with friends to see music maestro André Rieu in his home town of Maastricht, Holland, perform with his Johann Strauss orchestra.
While waiting at a bus stop to take us into the city, I spotted a dried up poppy seed head lying almost out of sight in the shelter. Curiosity got the better of me, so I picked it up and, to my delight, it was full of those tiny seeds that can blow away in a puff of wind.
We later shared the seed with our friends and I duly took mine home, sowed half of my share and popped the rest in the fridge. Surprise, surprise – nothing happened. Not a sign of life, zero, zilch, nuffin!
Until two weeks ago, that is, when I spied a tiny cluster of seedlings, less than a quarter of an inch high, in one corner of the seed tray.
Is this a Eureka moment? Time will tell when I am able to identify the baby plantlets. But I’ve still got those back-up seeds in the chill, so they will be sown in any case when March breezes in.
If my optimism proves correct, I shall celebrate my second Maastricht treat within seven months.
Meanwhile, here are some seasonal tasks if you are willing and the weather relents:
✴ Keep feeding the birds, who are having a tough time of it in the depths of winter. Even the gulls – and a solitary crow – can’t resist fistfuls of stale bread, as my picture shows.
✴ Put up next boxes, giving birds time to pick and choose before moving in to set up home.
✴ Check all tools and machinery are in working order, particularly electrical wiring and mower blades.
✴ Plan your compost, pots and seed tray order for the season ahead and make sure existing pots and trays are clean and crack-free.
✴ Plant new climbers to adorn walls or fences such as clematis, roses or honeysuckle. Dig holes about 9in from the wall and fix a trellis for extra support.
✴ Start preparing veg seedbeds, apply an organic fertiliser and cover with cloches to warm the ground.
✴ Plant raspberries, blackberry and hybrid berry canes, also bare-root fruit trees, working in leaf mould and a fish, blood and bone booster.
✴ Sow indoor tomatoes, aubergines and peppers and continue the end of March.
✴ Plant shallots 6in-7in apart. Use a trowel to fix them, with bulb tips just below the surface rather than pushing them into the soil as the new roots will force the bulbs upwards and give the birds a chance to pull ’em out for fun.