Well, the ‘Beast from the East’ is here! It’s turned mighty cold just now with the Arctic cold air being blown in over Tayport with the Easterly winds. And they say that the freezing cold and the snow are here to stay for a couple of weeks! What a change from last year when we were happily pottering around the garden in the sunshine – tatties chitting, radishes sprouting, cuttings rooting in a freakishly warm spring weather.
Apparently, we can blame it all on the Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW) over the Arctic which messed up the usual air movement patterns around the North Pole, normally stopping the cold polar air escaping so far to the South. If you are interested in all of the gory details of how SSW happens, Met Office has a handy video explainer.
Out of curiosity, we asked the internet about how SSW event and its cold weather snap over Europe relates to climate change. The answer is – and why aren’t we surprised: it’s complicated! The general gist is that overall, cold weather winter extremes are likely to increase around our parts due to disturbances in air circulation in the atmosphere over the North Pole, even as the Earth’s temperature warms up on average (Carbon Brief has one of the more readable and informative articles on this here).
All that’s left to do is hunker down and wait out the cold snap, delaying some of the gardening tasks until it passes… We will vary Garden opening hours to account for the weather so it’s best to get in touch with Jenny on firstname.lastname@example.org before heading out to see us over the next couple of weeks.
That’s enough about the weather – after all, you are reading this to hear more about what’s been growing at the Garden this month! So here it is.
With Peter on holiday for three weeks in early February, we were a bit apprehensive but thanks to his comprehensive to-do list, and help from our expert amateur gardeners, Jessie and Frances, we somehow managed to keep up the good work.
We tidied and harvested more of the winter crops, including the rest of the old Brussels, turnips, black radish, dicons and an impressive 13kg of giant parsnips. Out of the whole lot, the parsnips seem to have been most popular. We have had favourable reports of them roasted with honey and nutmeg, made into apple and parsnip soup and even muffins. Although with Janice’s chickens in the game, the Brussel sprout leaves come in a close second favourite;) Pop by the garden during any of the open sessions to pick up some of these yummies (the parsnips – not the sprout leaves)! We also have some new Brussel sprouts, herbs, pruple sprouting broccoli and silverbeet ready to harvest for you. The spring cabbages still need a little bit of time though…
The perennial border was neatly trimmed and weeded, and some heavy-duty tidy-up done by Ian and Craig on the fruiting hedge along the garden fence. Purple sprouting broccoli were netted to stop pigeons tucking into them – hopefully not too late for them to recover! And Peter, Will and Daniel finally picked up a very generous donation of well-rotten horse manure – Daniel really enjoyed the trip and the trailer:)
We also had a lovely day working on shaping our willow tunnel with Diana Robinson – here is a wee vlog about this. Zac, Hamish , Noah and Harry from childminders’ group have already given it their seal of approval!
Inspired by RSPB’s Big Birdwatch at the Garden we have finally installed some bird boxes! Thanks to Elizabeth and Richard for advice on their placement (we also found this RSPB website very helpful). We have long terrace boxes for the sociable sparrows who like nesting in groups, as well as some well spaced, single ones for the other small birds which are more territorial. We were rather pleased that blue tits started checking them out as soon as Bill stepped down the ladder after putting them up. We also continue feeding our feathery garden visitors with high energy, fatty treats – so important in the cold weather! Among the more exotic visitors since the Watch, we have seen goldcrests, yellowhammers and even a woodpecker.
In the polytunnel we got the super early tatties planted at the start of the month – but because of the cold it’s unlikely they will be ready as early as last year’s. The winter salads are looking perky and almost ready to cut-and-come again. We thinned them out a little and gave them a bit of a feed with liquid seaweed. We have also sown some broadbeans and lots and lots of sweet peas for summer posies. Hopefully the cold snap will not cause them to rot away before germinating properly!
Peter’s been taking advantage of the cold weather and doing more shopping for tatties at Freuchie – so we have 20+ more varieties to be going in the ground this year. They will be chitting at his place for the next couple of weeks – safely out of the frost.
That’s all for February – and here is hoping that our ‘delayed spring’ does not make us wait for it too long!