Showing posts with label Frost. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Frost. Show all posts


Uncertain Harvest ~ Ray Lovegrove

(C) K and R Lovrgrove

In the dictionary of any gardener, grower or farmer the words 'Spring' and 'hope' are almost synonymous. I'm one of the old school who don't think of Spring as starting at the equinox, nor at any date on the calender, but simply when the soil is warm enough to sow. That time is soon upon us, and for some folks who live further south and at lower altitudes than me, it may have come already. Some of you may think that we in the British Isles spend too much of our time talking about the weather, that may be true, but then we do have good reason, our weather is hard to predict! We don't have the deepest snow, or the hottest weeks, we miss out on hurricanes and tornadoes and most other examples of extreme weather; but we do sit with the vast Atlantic ocean to our west, the Arctic circles not too far to the north and our vast Eurasian land mass to the east; all of these possible influences make our weather fickle. Although most of our weather comes from the south-west, that can change overnight to the north-east. It might be springlike today, but tomorrow it could be back to winter, and the next day...who knows? The spouting seedlings can be taken by the frost or washed away by rain. Some years our plum trees give us such a harvest that we are working late preserving fruit for weeks, but one night of late frost, in early Spring, when the blossoms are out results in no plums, no greengages and (worst of all) no damsons that summer.

The poet Robert Frost had a wide experience of weather, born in sunny San Fransico he later moved to the chillier climes of New Hampshire, but it was in this land, where England and Wales meet, where he would have come upon the unpredictable 'stopping-and-starting' kinds of spring that I am used to. This poem tells all;


Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil.


Robert Frost 1915

That 'uncertain harvest' is a difficult thing, we don't think, as we sow our seed, of drought, of storms and pests and summers that don't quite work out as they should. As with so many things in life; starting a career, finding a partner, having children, buying a house ~ we live in the hope of what might be and don't give too much thought to that harvest which seems so very far away.

  • To find out more about simply enjoying the seasons click here.
  • To find out more about simple growing click here.
  • If you have no land to grow crops, but still want to produce your own food click here.
  • For some ideas on cooking what you grow click here.
  • And to provide some ideas for simple eating click here.

(C) Ray Lovegrove (aka 'Hay Quaker') 2015


A Time for Planning ~ Ray Lovegrove

At this time of year, with the garden under heavy frost, working outside can do more harm than good. The soil can be compressed, plants damaged and any soil that is turned is going to bury the frost and keep your soil colder for longer. I have two ways to cope with the weather.

Planning for the Spring

A cold and sunny day is the perfect time to sit down with a cup of tea and start to plan for the better weather, this not only gets a useful job done, but also lifts the spirits and carries my thoughts away from the short days and coldness. I have a very pictorial mind so plan my planting with the aid of pictures cut from old seed catalogues. Start with the perennial crops; rhubarb, soft fruit, etc. and then plan where your annual crops are going to go. You need to think about where things have been planted in the last three years and try to use some method of crop rotation. Brassicas (cabbage family) in particular need to grow where the soil has not had other related plants growing for two years. Also, some crops like fresh manure being dug in while others prefer soil that was manured a year, or even two years ago. You will need to think about sun and shade, many vegetable crops like full hot sunshine while others prefer life in the shade. If you do use cut out pictures move them around before making your final decision and pasting them on your plan.

When your plan is complete, all you need to do is decide on varieties of seed to sow. I like to save my own seed as far as possible, but still need to buy some supplies. If you are using seeds purchased last year be warned that carrot and parsnip seeds do not keep well and germination is poor with old supplies, best to buy fresh. I live in a cold spot due more to height above sea level than anything else, so much of my sowing has to be done undercover for planting out when the danger of late frost has passed.

Working the Land

If you do want to work on the garden despite the cold, why not cover areas of your plot with tarpaulin or heavy duty polythene? On a cold day, when the sun is shining you can pull back the covering and work on the soil. Make sure that the covering goes on when the soil is not frozen otherwise you will just be keeping the ground cold. Another job for midwinter, is that once you have decided where your brassica are to be planted you can ‘lime’ the soil. That means adding a calcium compound, usually powdered chalk to the soil to reduce acidity and prevent fungal disease. Liming also helps break down heavy clay soils, but be warned, test your soil to find the pH level before you lime; if you have alkaline soil you may not need it.

To find out more about simple growing click here.
If you have no land to grow crops, but still want to produce your own food click here.
For some ideas on cooking what you grow click here.
And to provide some ideas for simple eating click here.

Springing Life - Isaac Penington

"There is a pure seed of life which God hath sown in thee … Oh, wait daily to feel it. Oh, wait to feel the Seed, and the cry of thy soul in the breathing life of the Seed, to its Father … and wait for the risings of the power in thy heart … Be still and quiet, and silent before the Lord, not putting up any request to the Father, nor cherishing any desire in thee, but in the Seed’s lowly nature and purely springing life."

(C) Ray Lovegrove (aka 'Hay Quaker') 2015

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