We Hunger for Spring

frost on the broad beans, august 2012

Spring is associated with ritual and celebration; the equinox, the birds and the bees, growth and fecundity.  Fruit trees budding and blossoming, the days beginning to lengthen. Exciting, but really, the start of spring is a time of hunger in the garden. I call it the starvation time because winter crops are finishing and will soon bolt to seed, it’s still too cold for the summer ones and the harbingers of spring – asparagus, broad beans, artichokes – are still to come. If you haven’t staggered your winter plantings, now’s the time you might be wanting a bit more from your garden than spinach and silverbeet!

We seem to always comment on whether the signs of spring are earlier or later than the last, windier, colder at night and we wonder if we should plant earlier, or later. Memory isn’t always reliable. That’s why it’s good practice to keep a garden diary. I suspect most gardeners wouldn’t remember when they planted their tomatoes last year or what date they picked the first/last fruit, even though they might recall green tomatoes or saying ‘next year I’ll try sowing a 10 days earlier’!

chilly late august morning in newstead

Certified organic growers keep a diary record, not just as a memory aide, for regulatory reasons, or to prove they are growing in line with organic protocols, but to help understand the play of land and soils, crops and weather, seasonal trends and interactions on their farm.

The sort of notes I’ve kept (and vow to do again at the end of every season!) include the variety, when I sowed the seed, how much, how many plants germinated or ended up being planted and when, flowering times, harvest times, what they yielded, what grew and tasted best that year, which I saved for seed, what I added (and when) to feed the soil or plant, what disease or pest problems arose and what worked best to control them. But that’s my slight science bent; you don’t need to be this specific, just note the things you want to know more about….

Also note your observations of each season as they unfold (eg. rainfall, frost, heat, cold, humidity, wind, etc). You may be able to get some of this info from local sources. Record, review and reflect. Do this for all the crops you grow over a number of years and you build up gardening experience and knowledge. Felt knowledge, the sort that can’t be gleaned from reading a book or a website.  Every season will be different, so it will also be hard earned knowledge!

Think about diary keeping and spring scarcity as you read the September Growing Notes, now posted. Perfect timing for an early crop of spuds, perhaps some peas, leafy greens and spring onions, and sowing seeds for summer if you have a warm spot to germinate them.

3 thoughts on “We Hunger for Spring

  1. Saide of Sandon says:

    What a good idea – a garden dairy! I have been keeping a map each season of what I plant where. Even in a small plot like ours, it is hard to remember from season to season where one has put the seeds! And I am somewhat eclectic treating my vegetable plot rather like a cottage flower garden and strewing my onions with my garlic, my broccoli between my beans and my Vietnamese mint under my silverbeet to protect from frost and sun.

    My question is about the seed source for the broadbeans in the digger patch, which last year had garlic and the year before that, had tomatoes, I think. Those broadbeans are looking very sturdy and have firm upright stems, whereas my broadbeans in plot 12 are a bit thin and wobbly on their stems. At home even more so! My seed was sourced from the community garden’s crop from last year, so thought it would be on the way to acclimatization. But last year was rather a wet season, (as is this year!) and I noticed that many of my seed beans were not as plumb as the year before. Hence am wondering about the source for the digger seed bed of broadbeans.

    • janet barker says:

      I am pretty sure those broadies were from my Daylesford patch, though they could have been from the community garden (talking about record keeping…!). I have also purchased dried faba beans from the organic wholefoods shop in the past. The main thing is that the seeds are plump and show no signs of disease. It’s good to introduce fresh seed every few seasons – through local seed exchanges or buying from reputable companies. And soil prep may have something to do with the healthy crop – well dug over, limed, rock dust, compost, dynamic lifter….

  2. mary park says:

    Thanks Janet, this post prompted me to think about the importance of record keeping for communal gardening. There is now a diary in the shed – gardeners please feel free to scribble!

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