For the soul, April is the most demanding month. Suddenly the sun comes out dancing from nowhere like a tease promising all sorts of fun, only to dive back in behind dark clouds the next minute. Just as I begin thinking about tidying up the flower boarders and getting rid of the protection against frost that is provided by last years vegetation, I wake up to a new morning filled with snow and despair. April fool to have even imagined spring chores being done...! Instead I stayed inside, and read some more books and practiced my very limited patience. Finally the month draws to a close and I can grab my gloves, the rake and the wheelbarrow, secateurs and a spade, and welcome the spring back into my garden!
At this time of the year the garden is not just fifty shades of brown, but a thousand. Everything has died down in winter, and everything needs to be cleared from the beds. There is not only a layer of leaves that have dropped from the trees last autumn, but all the perennials and annuals are buried under last years growth. The Mohito bed - an abundant sea of mint growing in the upper part of the secret garden at Humlegård - is a tangle of dead sticks that have to be cut off at ground level. It is slow going, and bad for my poorly back, so it takes me the better part of the day. Afterwards I put a layer of compost on top, tucking in the plants under a nice blanket nutrition to give them the strength to start again.
Next to the Mohito bed there is my tiny little strawberry field and it too takes an equal amount of time to sort out. First I rake off winter debris and last years hay from underneath the plants, and then I spend an awful lot of time cutting off runners from individual plants. I should really have done this last summer, but it was one of those things that I never got around to doing. Better late than never, I suppose. There are lots of new little strawberry plants too, and some get to stay while others get evicted. I aim for an evenly spaced strawberry plantation, but it is not an exact science.
In between the strawberry plants weeds have happily set up shop, and digging them out takes the rest of the day. There are lots of nasty thin white roots in the soil, and I know they belong to a very invasive but as yet unidentified weed that is actively going for world domination. I know we will keep battling it out all summer, so I'm reluctant to mulch because I want to see it as soon as it pokes its nasty head up over the soil in an effort to keep getting rid of it. Meanwhile, Boomer my darling companion keeps me company. He loves spring gardening, but I make sure he puts on a nice thick jumper before venturing out. The heat from the sun can be deceptive and if one is not careful one can catch a cold, I tell him.
Gardening at this time of the year is all about setting the scene for later in the summer. There are few opportunities for creating evocative pictures, and it is with a fair bit of gardening envy I look at my Instagram feed where gorgeous garden photos pop up showing off delightful plant combinations and sheer spring colours. This here, the dead leaves and bare earth, is my gardening reality. It is not very pretty and in many ways not so much fun, yet I love it with the steady love one reserves for ones family and best friends. I actually enjoy the steady rhythm of raking and cutting back dead leaves much as I do the washing up after a family dinner. There would not be one without the other, and without the un-glamourus hours tending to the garden before the growth season starts there would be no bounty of strawberries and Mohito drinks to be enjoyed in the sunset amongst the flowers in my beautiful hidden garden.
As a reward for all the dull work, I harvest a bag of perfect Jerusalem artichokes from the bathtub in the background. I keep them in the fridge for a day or two, and then I make artichoke soup for the soul. At least there we have one small conciliation prize for all my patience this month!