As I decided to create a blog at the beginning of each month illustrating what is going on in our garden, so I have also decided to publish a blog in the middle of each month to show what is happening on our allotment site.
So today we braved the cold and went for a wander. The weather although cold, at five below, was bright sunshine in a clear blue sky. the air felt freezing as it entered my lungs but the sight of the lotties cheered me. As we stepped from the car a kestrel was hunting low between the sheds in search of the abundant field voles. A day never goes by without seeing at least one kestrel quartering the site. A buzzard soared overhead in the thermals created by the warmer air above the cultivated plots.
First job was to fill the bird feeders at the two feeding stations. They were busy with blue tits, coal tits and great tits feeding from the hanging feeders and blackbirds, dunnocks and robins beneath picking up the feed dropped by the clumsy birds above them. All the while we could hear the call of nuthatches in the site’s mature oak and sycamore trees.
Frost sits on the bare ground and helps the gardeners by breaking it down and improving the texture in readiness for a final preparatory rake over. The fine tilth can then be home to seeds.
The plots themselves look very sad at this time of the year, drooping brassicas, frosted leeks and steaming muck heaps and compost bins, the warmest spots of all. The scarecrows have fallen in the recent strong winds, their clothes wet and bedraggled and their structures weakened. Frost emphasises leaf structures, settling deepest along the veins.
The strongly veined wrinkled leaves of the Savoy Cabbages withstand the cold wrapped into tight balls.
Kale defies the cold and stands upright and proud even with ice droplets and frost splattered on their tightly curled leaves.
Sunlight makes the old runner bean pods translucent as they hang on the dead remnants of last year’s plants.
On our own plot the rows of Mooli, Broad Beans and Leeks look delicate in the frozen soil but will sit until spring arrives when they will have growth spurts and give us early crops.
Plastic bottles on canes support last year’s netting and still protect any overwintering crops from hungry Wood Pigeons.
Blackbirds move low across the lotties settling onto any sun-warmed soil and dig for grubs, but this one sat looking sad.
We took a leisurely walk around the “Interest Trail” which took us through or close to most of the community gardens – the orchards, wildlife borders, seasonal gardens and meadows. Near the car park the first green bursts of new life have appeared, the leaves and catkins forming on the birches. The young catkins stand bolt upright at this stage but will soften in colour and structure when they dangle down in the spring.
The purple catkins of the alder sit on the branches with the darker cones.
In the Autumn Garden seed heads of Asters remain long after the flowers of autumn, like tiny dandelion “clocks”.
In the first orchard th frost still lingered strongly on the logpile especially on this old chunk of bark.
When we reached the Spring Garden we were struck by the contrasting leaf texture, shapes and structures.
At the back of this garden the silver tassels of the Garrya hung in profusion and the new buds of the Amelanchier promised early flowers and foliage.
Further round the trail we arrived at the “Winter Garden” where the low rays of the sun sent long shadow lines of the fence right across the border between the coloured stems of the Betulas and the Dogwoods. It also illuminated this peeling bark, giving it the impression of slithers of orange brittle toffee.
The blue spruce looked bluer than ever with the whiteness of the frost laying on its needles.
Our Winter Garden has so much of interest that I shall publish a blog just featuring it within the next few days, so for now we shall move on to the second orchard where the golden fruits of Malus “Evereste” have escaped the attentions of the winter visiting thrushes but I suspect they will soon be discovered and devoured. The insect stack in the orchard is there to attract beneficial insects who provide our very wildlife-friendly pesticide. The stack should give them some shelter to help them survive the winter cold and wet.
As we wandered back towards the car park we passed through the wildflowers meadows long since cut to the ground, but showing promise for next summer in its tiny seedlings. One lone flower braved the cold – a pale blue cornflower. Leaving the lotties we noticed promises of flowers from the bulbs in the car park border and in the half-barrels in the gateway.