Slow start

I am struggling, to be honest, with the wet and unpredictable start to 2014. Although we live up a hill, and have consequently been spared any flooding, one look at the water meadows around Salisbury is all it takes to see very clearly how much rain has fallen.

High water in central Salisbury

The worst it has got in our own garden is to make everything sodden-through, and the same goes for my clients’ gardens. Work on the soil is very tricky, as standing on it (even using a board) risks compacting and churning – damaging the structure which is the very life of the soil. Lawns too are virtually no-go areas, as any repeated treading will quickly turn grass to squelchy green mud. 

On the other hand, typical January jobs such as fruit pruning are a little difficult as we’ve not had any properly cold weather to promote dormancy in the trees and bushes. I like to wait until there’s been a few consecutive days of proper frosts before tackling apple trees: I think we have had four remotely frosty mornings since the beginning of November.

I have done a stint at the allotment, but that too is very wet – even given it’s sloping ground, and free-draining soil too. One job I did manage to do was to heel-in some bare-root shrubs that arrived by mail-order, which can stay in the ground until conditions improve a bit and I can move them to the client’s garden where they will form the basis of new planting.

The dearth of garden birds continues too. Whilst the nyger seed feeder has been almost permanently occupied by Goldfinches for a couple of weeks, other species have been thin on the ground. My son and I had set ourselves some ‘target birds’ for the winter – one of which was Brambling. But numbers of these bold-coloured Scandinavian finches have been very low this year, as they’ve stayed-put, as have Waxwings – after a really good season last year.

One problem has been food going off in the feeders, as it sits and gets wet and mouldy. This is bad news as it risks spreading disease for visiting birds, so regular changes of food are required – and I tend not to overfill the feeders either, to reduce waste.

The weather forecast keeps on promising a cold snap – and this time last year we had snow – but I am not holding out much hope. Bulbs are popping up all over the place, and snowdrops will be appearing in the garden soon.

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