And now it's April, and it's warmer and there's a lot more sunshine. The garden is starting to come together through a combination of elements -- human input (digging a bit, tidying, planting), the plants themselves (some growing back, some being planted fresh from seeds), and the appearance of birds, insects and other essential creatures.
Just in the past two weeks, the garden has seen bluebells flower under the apple tree and birds zoom in and out, and completely transform the colours and tone of this small space. Not bad for a garden in one of the most densely occupied urban environments in Europe.
Some welcome old timers are back to nest in the big tree a few gardens down - wood pigeons, blackbirds and great tits - although a pair of magpies have also arrived and unsettled the songbirds. Nature red in tooth and claw, and all that. We leave seed and meal worm out for the garden birds, and watch them dance and feed every day. The great tits are coming out to feed singly now, so we guess there are eggs to incubate and monitor.
Flowers, herbs other plants have reappeared quite dramatically this month - bluebells, celandines, chives, thyme, bay, mint, rosemary and sage - as well as some tiny lavender shoots that I planted from seed last year. Some of last year's meadow flowers and sweet peas have self-seeded and we've left a lot of these to grow and provide foliage for insects and spiders. (Yes, I'm weird, I like spiders. I've made two 'spider houses' out of of bird boxes placed on the ground and stuffed with moss, twigs and dry leaves.)
The apple tree is in blossom, attracting butterflies, bees, hornets, wasps and hover flies, and the great tits are eating the aphids and other mini-beasts from its branches.
We've planted some new stuff this year, as planned, from seed - courgettes, tomatoes, coriander, basil, dill and flat-leafed parsley. I've also decided it's warm enough to plant some chilli seeds now. And these are the plants that we are focusing on, to be honest, because they're in trays and pots are will be a bit delicate for a while - we don't let them dry out, or get chewed by slugs, or get too cold. Cheap cloches from places like Wilko work well - they do a 'mini-greenhouse' for a tenner.
The strawberry plants have also grown back robustly. I grew these from seed two years ago - oh my god they are the smallest seeds in the world - although like everything in my garden they can be bought as young plants from garden centres and supermarkets, and planted out straight into bigger pots or into the garden soil.
I also planted asparagus seeds a couple of years ago, which did grow, and this year I should have some decent edible shoots. Whether it's worth it not, I'll find out. Otherwise the ground is being over to, or doubling up with, (more) courgettes and tomatoes, because I love a good ratatouille.
If you're just starting out this year, now is a still a good time to organise pots (or other cheap containers) filled with compost, plant seeds, and watch them grow. Fast-growing herbs like coriander and flat-leafed parsley - great in Mediterranean cooking - and patio tomatoes are brilliant. When they're grown, cook them all up with some onion an add to pasta or rice - amazing.
April is here, and this spring garden is buzzing.