Spring has sprung

  • Cherry tomatoes. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Archive/Press Association Images

    A male blackbird (turdus merula). Blackbirds have begun singing strongly to mark their territories. Photo: Malene Thyssen

    Cherry blossom. Photo: Johnny Green/PA Wire

  • Spring has sprung
    02.03.2012 08:12


    “Spring has sprung, the grass is riz”, as an anonymous and ungrammatical Bronx poet once put it.

    March 1st marks the meteorological first day of spring but perhaps the poet was thinking more of the astronomical change of seasons which would be at the vernal equinox around March 20th or 21st (this year it’s the 20th).

    Grass is more likely to be flourishing that bit later into the year but given the mildness of the last week or two it is already inching upwards, and the tell tale buzz or chug of lawnmowers is already rending the air.

    There will always be debate as to which date is “officially” the first day of spring; but obviously, as with any season, there is no sharp transition and the point remains moot.

    Either way, with fresh scents assailing the nostrils, the sun gaining a little more strength, trees starting to bud, early flowers blooming and birds beginning lustily to sing into the evenings, it is tempting rush out and start joining in the frenzy if one is of an agrarian bent.

    In the south of Britain this might sound like a good idea ahead of some much-needed rain this weekend. However, flowers, shrubs and vegetables might not thank a rush to sow or plant too early. Tomatoes planted just now might well produce the fruit of those grown later but may be less sturdy and may bear fruit for less time. And pests don’t need much warmth at all to start breeding, so early-planted seedlings might come under attack.

    Although the air feels warmer the soil temperature takes a while to warm up, especially at depth. Until the deep temperatures have risen somewhat the top several centimetres of soil are still susceptible to sufficient cooling to affect subsequent plant growth.

    There is, for example, some cheeky folkloric wisdom that suggests that planting of tomatoes should be delayed until the soil feels warm to one’s bare behind. For those without the privacy of a garden – on an allotment, say – a more modest and trouser-preserving method would be to use the back of one’s hand as a gauge.

    It might be a bit chilly to attempt the former early next week anyway, because we’ll be getting rain, some hill snow and a frost before milder, if unsettled, conditions return later in the week.

    By: Stephen Davenport