Spring is here in name only and as usual winter still reaches its long fingers deep into October. My perseverance is low. In winter I felt strong and bold, barely acknowledging the cold in my daily activities. However, there is something about cold and windy days in spring that wears me down, making me constantly search for a blanket or longing for a long hot bath.
Still, it is spring and my mind is busy with planning for spring planting. The greenhouse is full of seedlings and I am preparing the various beds for the promise of summer produce. I have to reign in my enthusiasm because planting some plants too early can be disastrous. This is our 10th year in Lara and I have had to learn this lesson yet again.
My favourite flowers are sunflowers, tulips and roses. It is time to create my sunflower bed with squashes, herbs and some small wild flowers interplanted between the large sunflowers. I always make sure to plant the Teddy Bear sunflower variety (it reminds me of Van Gogh and one of my favourite paintings of his) and the Giant Russian sunflowers.
We have a large square of land beside some grapevines and our beehives that is cleared each year. I then layer the soil with some cow manure and compost and cover it with mulch. This year, for the first time I used a Tagasaste (tree lucerne) mulch Martin prepared for me. It is rich in nitrogen and I am looking forward to see its impact on the soil.
After covering the soil with mulch, I left it for two weeks. I then gathered all my packets of seed and carefully planted each seed according to a design I can clearly see in my head. In my imagination I composed the height, colour and textures of the various plants into perfect harmony.
Once the seeds are sown it is the period of great anticipation. I cannot wait for the myriad little leaves to poke out from below the ground. I wait much longer than I anticipated and when finally, a few leaves do emerge I am sadly disappointed. Did I not plant a couple of hundred of seeds? Why then can I count the little plants in front of me on two hands and maybe a foot thrown in?
Because I have planted the sunflowers too early for our climate. I should have waited until end of October! In stead I had completed my sowing by middle September. Not all hope is lost as a few plants are starting to look stronger and producing more leaves. The squash plants are looking good and are starting to grow too. It does mean that I will have to top up the sunflower seeds. I created a last-minute order at the Diggers Club and as soon as my new packets of seeds arrive, I will do a top-up sow.
Why haven’t I been able to gather and store my own sunflower seeds? Multiple reasons. One being COVID – almost becoming a cliché – but true. The impact of COVID on our lives prevented us spending all the time in the garden we needed to and I focused instead on planting the bare necessities in areas of the garden I was able to clear on my own.
Another reason is that my brother and his wife left after spending a year with us, so again I had less help in the garden.
Not least are the birds. They think I plant the sunflowers solely for their eating pleasure. It is a regular bird party out in our garden when the sunflower seeds are ready for harvest. I am convinced invitations are issued to the extended families of our local birds. I am lucky to harvest a couple of handfuls in between their feasting frenzy and inevitably we end up eating those ourselves instead of saving it for next year.
It is however worth all the trouble just to see the beautiful display of flowers in the garden and we do get to feast on all the squash and herbs that grows between the sunflowers. Everything doesn’t have to be functional, right? Pure beauty and the enjoyment of it is sometimes enough. A viewing pleasure that nourishes my soul.