In his regular column for French News Online "Lifestyle"
Section, professional gardener Mike Alexander, waxes lyrical as
he contemplates his February garden.
February is the month that gardening seems to slumber.
If I were honest about what I will be doing for much of this
month this piece would be about tidying sheds and cleaning tools
but I am not sure that that would make much of a read.
So when not busy on these boring but necessary tasks I will be
adding rich compost to beds on any day when the soil is not frozen.
In my opinion it is just about impossible to treat such a valuable
raw material too well. Directly or indirectly soil supports most
of the planet's life forms. In France alone, there are over ten
thousand different soil types and it takes over five hundred years
to form just two centimetres of top soil. Combine this with the
fact that many of our antibiotics are made from micro organisms
within it and ten percent of the world's carbon emissions are
stored in it perhaps overall, soil should be treated with more
One gram can contain up to seven thousand species of bacteria
while a shovel full of healthy earth will contain more living
things than all the humans ever born. If that sort of overcrowding
is not a good reason for gardeners keeping their tetanus vaccinations
up to date then I don't know what is. As the Greek philosopher
Xenophones once said:
"For all things come from earth, and
all things end up becoming earth."
I seldom use anything but natural products on any of the beds
I work. A mulch of compost at least twice a year, a handful of
bone meal when planting and an occasional supplement of fish or
blood meal if something needs a boost will suffice to keep most
plants in good health. Well rotted manure is great for bigger
shrubs such as roses or for feeding fruit trees at the beginning
of spring and I have sung the praises of mulching with leaf mould
in earlier articles.
I have yet to meet a gardener with perfect soil. Perhaps this
is because to admit perfect soil would be to eliminate a major
excuse for not having perfect plants. It is the gardeners equivalent
of "leaves on the tracks" which is the catch all excuse
certain rail companies would rather not be without.
Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)
It has been a bit of a bizarre winter this year and I don't remember
it having been this mild for so long. Many plants that should
have gone over long ago are still thriving and my Pineapple Sage
(Salvia elegans) which shrivels at the slightest frost was still
flowering in mid January. I eventually cut it back with flowers
still showing so that I could fleece it against the frost that
surely must come.
Eventually the drably grey environment we presently inhabit will
start to brighten up. Snowdrops (Galanthus) are already through
and celandines (Ranunculus figaria) won't be far behind.
Each touch of colour brings a little hope and quite soon now
we will be able to at least imagine that spring is not far off.
"If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"
Percy Bysshe Shelley