Although summer is my favourite season, I feel a twinge of sadness when lovely May comes to an end. It will be another year before the world is as green, lush and full of birdsong again and I'm always reminded of Gerard Manley Hopkins's line 'After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.'
May has indeed been a beautiful month in the gardens - full of new life and possibility and blessed with some welcome rain after April's drought.
Gardener Graham noticed a green woodpecker making her nest in one of his old apple trees and has been watching over the brood like a protective grandfather as the fledglings emerge.
We collected and installed the smart glazed noticeboard generously made for us at cost price by the carpentry and joinery department of Stamford's New College. What a difference - no more laminating notices and hammering in drawing pins!
It's been the normal late spring race to get seeds sown and vegetable patches weeded and planted - peas, potatoes, courgettes, carrots, beetroot, kale, squashes - you name it, our gardeners are growing it. This weekend was warm enough for tomatoes and French beans to go out and I always know summer is round the corner when my gardening neighbour Simon sets out his neat grid of sweetcorn. Andrea and Alex are two of our more adventurous Waterfurlong growers and they've been supplying the honesty box stall with red orach and mizuna plants as well as giant rhubarb stalks! It's been sweet hearing one small customer pleading with his mum to make ANOTHER rhubarb crumble as they pass the stall on their daily after school dog-walk.
I look back over my old gardening journals to check whether past years have been as challenging when it comes to weeds and pests, but I think spring 2019 really has taken the biscuit. Goosegrass is so tall and rampant it is peeking out from the tops of the hedgerows, bindweed is strangling the dahlia stakes, we had greenfly by Easter and thanks to the pheasants and the muntjac deer, the sweet-peas are still only two feet tall. Flea-beetle is everywhere and don't get me started on slugs and snails - within a day of going out into the cold-frame my sweetcorn were in ribbons. Normally nematodes keep the slimy beasties under control, but there seems to be a national shortage. Was it last summer's heat? Some enterprising soul is advertising a single £15 packet for £150 on eBay!
But all the frustration fades when we pick our first broad beans and radishes, realise new potatoes and strawberries are only weeks away, see the sparkle of raindrops on the ladies' mantle and catch the bullfinch's fluted whistle as he darts in and out of the dog roses, heavier with bloom this year than I can ever remember.