My Spring seed collection (as distinct from my autumn seed collection) has been sitting on my shed bench for weeks now, waiting for those harbingers of Spring; the honey bees. Today the whole garden resounded with their humming as they gathered nectar and pollen from the flowering citrus trees and the broccoli, rocket and cabbage flowers in the kitchen garden.
While the plant nurseries have been alive with humans for some weeks now, it’s the activity of these bees that lets me know that Mother Nature has started her Spring engine in earnest after the quiet of the winter garden. It’s time to plant seeds.
For some years past I’ve experimented with various peat pots and potting mixtures into which to plant my Spring seed collection; those seeds, at any rate, that start life best as seedlings, rather than those best sown directly into the garden beds, such as the large seeds of sunflowers, cucumbers, beans, corn, zucchini and pumpkin.
But it’s all too tempting to mistake purchasing stuff with gardening; the natural adjunct to seed saving is to plant out one’s own seed, and it’s quicker too. Why is that? Well, because I’ve saved on all sorts of discarded seed punnets and seed trays, old coffee tins for seed storage, cake trays to stand seed trays on out of reach of earwigs, and flat wooden window blinds that can be cut up and used to label seed trays.
But the real work in preparing for seed planting day has been done by the chickens whose breakfast table and toilet both reside under our huge old lemon tree; they have been scratching about for years turning the top layer of soil into a fine and nutritious seed-planting mix. One need only sieve off a shovelful or two of this wonderful natural material to replace bags of potting mix full of coconut fibre and man-made chemical nutrients.
There’s only one small catch – for reasons unknown to me, this great stuff comes out of the chicken yard so dry that for the moment it forms a ‘non-wetting soil’; water beads on the top of it instead of sinking in. So now begins the careful process of turning my seed trays into seedling trays by careful and very regular slow watering with rain water from a watering can.
This allows the moisture to move in around the seeds and to kick Spring off in earnest.