So, Oestre has been and gone. That famed pagan festival we all celebrate by eating chocolate eggs and dressing up as rabbits or chicks. It is also the time many people descend on the local garden centre to buy their summer colour, veg seed and other things which perhaps are later regretted.
With the weather we have been having recently, we could be mistaken for believing it was summer already! But, there is an old lore, which you must be made aware of: The Blackthorn Winter. If you are unaware of this small piece of country wisdom, then now is your chance to out-do your neighbours.
It is said, (and I am one who says this regularly), when the blackthorn is in flower, then you will have a second winter. If you are unsure of the blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), it is the tree or shrub with the horrendous thorns and white flower. It's bark is a dark almost purple hue. It is also the plant we get sloes from to make that wonderful gin. (Thinking of Christmas already? Surely not). If you are a keen naturalist, be aware these thorns easily break off and harbour a fungus which can cause blood poisoning, so carefully does it!
So in these times of cooler air, be of the knowledge the frost season is still upon us. Many would say it is not gone until early to mid May, so look after those tender plants. Keep the fleece at hand should Old Jack threaten to visit. It may be 23 degrees in the day, but the soil is still not warmed. So it also advisable not to mulch your borders lest you trap this cold into the soil. Wait awhile. If you are again unsure of just when, touch your elbow to the soil as you would a baby's bath water. If it is cold, then do not mulch. If it warm, then add that all important improvement. (Mid May should be okay).
-- Guy Deakins