Spring is here!
Suddenly after months and months of waiting, spring leaps upon us with absurd intensity. In a cold climate like Finland, we go from zero to full speed in two weeks. Zero is when the earth is still frozen and there is snow on the ground in north corners, and full speed is when suddenly the ground frost lets go and nature awakens.
The first thing I do as a celebration of spring is to harvest the last of my overwintering Jerusalem artichokes. They are a pain to scrub clean, but once that job is done they are perfect to eat with the peel on. I just cut them in halves and roast them with olive oil, salt and pepper in the oven until tender and a bit mushy. I grow my Jerusalem artichokes in an old bathtub, as they have a tendency to go wild and spread all over the place if left to grow freely. However carefully I harvest, there are always some left in the soil and these are the ones that will give next autumns crop. After the harvest, I turn over the soil in the bathtub and add a thick layer of compost from my household compost bin as that compost is extra filled with nutrition.
This year we had the Jerusalem artichokes for easter with lamb. Yes, I know it seems harsh to eat lamb that I personally know but in my defence I will say that I truly think it is better to eat meat from farms where they have a really good life than to buy meat in the supermarkets. I have a difficult time with intense meat farming as most such places are like concentration camps for animals. At my neighbouring farm all the lambs are hand reared, and they are never contained to tiny or overpopulated quarters. Instead they overwinter in a warm and spacious barn and spend all summer outdoors on pastures where they graze organically grown grass.
So why do I think organically grown grass is better than mainstream farming? Well, it means that the fields are grown without chemical fertilisers or pesticides which is really important for the survival of our insect populations. On organic fields there is only insect food, and no insect killers. I let all my fields to my neighbouring farmer for a very descent rent and one lamb shoulder a year and it just makes me so happy to know my land is as healthy as can be.
At this time of year the flowerbeds are in need of some tender loving care, and they are the first on my list of projects. I clear away old growth and weed the beds free from thistle, as it has such strong taproots it will survive almost anything. Then I cover the space in between the plants with wet newspaper (pictured below) and finally I lay a thick mulch of compost or wood chipping on top (pictured in front of the house and below under the Hawthorne tree). It looks crazy when I spread out the newspaper, I know, but it really works and just you wait a month and the flower borders will be filled with blooming perennials!
I also take time to have a proper look at the trees and bushes, as now is a good time to prune any unwanted branches. In my secret garden I have a lovely hawthorn tree that has grown a bit wild, so I took away all the lower branches and the ones that were growing straight up. Later on, when it is mature, I intend to put a cast-iron bench around it and that is why I keep raising the canopy to form a good umbrella shaped tree.
Infront of my house I have a flower border that I let grow wild, but even here I clear away weeds, cover the soil in-between perennials with newspaper and lay a mulch in spring. There is a fine balance in letting some grass into the border to keep the wild look, but not letting it take over! As you can see, this is where I keep the bird feeders so that I can enjoy the wildlife at close hand from the window. I keep feeding the birds until the end of June, as the spring and the nesting season is when they really need the extra boost of readily available and nutritious food. Although I provide an assortment of seeds, the birds really prefer peeled sunflower seeds to anything else. Happy spring gardening to you!