One sunny day last week, out on the bridleway, a skylark rose from a wheat field, soared high in the sky and sang to the heavens.
Suddenly daylight is arriving earlier and, with it, a hint of bird song. Not quite a full-blown dawn chorus but promising.
These and several other signs are so encouraging that we can’t ignore them. The time is right to prepare for take-off and another growing season.
This is not to say that we start sowing everything willy-nilly outdoors or turn out tender plants to fend for themselves.
There are bound to be a few glitches. Frosty nights remain a possibility and we all know what they say about March.
However, total inactivity now is not going to help later when gardening friends say they’ve planted several vegetables with a head start in growth.
We have broad beans in 9cm pots with shoots 10cm high and good roots. Garden peas were at the same stage in pots until a friendly mouse (possibly with friends) decided to visit overnight and feast on them.
They were standing on open staging in the cold greenhouse as always and it’s the first time we’ve has this problem.
However, a new batch of seed was soaked in water overnight and potted up the next day suitably swollen. They have gone on a large tray with dome on top.
Onion sets and shallots are also advancing in pots and the end of March is pencilled-in for planting them all outdoors.
This flying start scores in several ways over sowing directly into drills on the vegetable patch.
Sowing peas and beans outdoors plays into the hands of the mice who can pick them off at leisure over the minimum two weeks it takes to germinate and get into growth. If the weather is wet and temperatures remain low there is a chance of seeds rotting.
Planting from pots instantly transforms a vegetable bed and there is uniformity. Roots and shoots are well established and subsequent growth is rapid.
The same applies to shallots and onion sets presently developing in pots.
Mischievous birds cannot succeed in flicking them all over the garden as they do when we press the bare bulbs into the soil, as instructed by text books.
And what about the early potatoes? Ours are standing in trays, upright as a row of guardsmen, eyes to the heavens, and sturdy green shoots are legion.
We’ll remove all but the four strongest from each tuber shortly and they too will hit the soil in a couple of weeks or so.