February and March at the Physic Garden Project
From winter to spring?
February was a quiet and gentle time in the garden.
Chie (my most intrepid and regular volunteer and assistant) and I have cleared and prepared the nursery beds ready for this year’s seeds.
We have also worked our way round the herb circle, clearing the dead remnants of last year’s plants, weeded out the new bramble, useful but rather prolific ground ivy and red dead nettle.
Chie in a snow flurry
Even with the bitterly cold weather and amongst the snow flurries there are signs of new life in the herb circle. I was surprised to find tiny little self-seeded Thymes and happy to see the very first very dark pink marshmallow shoots appearing in the respiratory bed.
Hardy little Chamomiles
The German Chamomile plants have proved to be very hardy, grown from seed last year and having defiantly returned after the rabbit onslaught, they have been popping up all over the sleep bed right through the winter.
I might regret not isolating the chocolate mint (Mentha piperita cultivar) an indulgent buy! It is sending runners out at a rapid rate of knots and may start to dominate the digestive bed, but for now it’s great to see its vigorous lust for life at work. Another mint, the notorious Penny Royal (Mentha puleium), is spreading like a carpet and packed with essential oil pulegone, a gentle stroke releases the most stimulating (but toxic) aroma.
We dug our new vegetable plot on one of the tantalisingly sparse spring days, nestling it next to a lovely winter-through-spring flowering prunus hedge line. It is covered with black mypex in an attempt to raise the temperature of the earth in preparation for seed sowing.
Bax has nearly finished the new veg patch
We are now in March and there have been no real signs of the temperature rising! Apparently this is the coldest March in 50 years. It certainly has felt pretty chilly.
We have taken advantage of the slow start to Spring by digging up a whole row of young organic Goji berry plants, kindly donated by neighbouring project Village fruits, whilst they are still dormant. They are to become our brand new medicinal hedge and provide a windbreak for the herb circle.
We also received a wonderful Demascena rose from my friend and mentor, Sarah Fury, which is now springing to life and whose blooms should provide us with the most intoxicating heady perfume this summer!
More herbs are breaking the surface, and this week we were delighted to discover the garlic we planted in January standing in rows like a little protective army in the heart and circulatory bed.
Although a little later than in the wild, it would appear that the Ramsons bought as bulbs last year are just peaking through the soil and as promised, we won’t be disappointed with the purchase!
Chie and I had a little field trip, seeking out Silver birch trees to tap for their sap.
We used the traditional herbal method of drilling a small hole in the tree and feeding in a straw to collect the sap in a tied on plastic bottle. We have since discovered a rather more tree friendly method using just a knife. To see a video of this method in practise please follow this link: . http://www.naturalbushcraft.co.uk/wild-food/tapping-the-birch-tree-for-sap-in-march-collecting-birch-sap-a-clean-sugar-rich-water.html
The sap is rising now, perhaps a little later than usual due to the cold weather so there is still time to try this wonderfully therapeutic spring tonic for your self. It is very important, should you be new to this and fancy trying this for the first time to follow some simple guidelines including correctly identifying a silver birch, remembering to return for the sap and not leaving the tap running and then to re-seal the hole you have made once you have finished.