From here to the solstice (377)

by Max Akroyd


May and June are the beautiful months. It would be much better and healthier to just go with the flow of time and just enjoy things for what they are, man.

Not me. I come from a long line of folk who like to see order in things: teachers and engineers. For fear of drowning, I can’t help putting markers in that big sea of time, and the next one on the horizon is the summer solstice. My first reaction to this statement is disbelief that the longest day is only a few weeks away. The long reach of cold into spring has made that slightly improbable: not helped by the lack of variation in the texture of the weather, dry for weeks now, which makes it feel like a year in a trance.

My second reaction is a mild panic attack! The solstice is the point by which most edible things should be in their ‘final position’… a lot of mine are still tucked up in their seed packets.The lunar quality of the soil in the field is still prohibiting extensive outdoor sowings, which doesn’t help the schedule. But even I can accept that drought is beyond my control, so carrots, turnips and more peas and beetroot will just have to wait.

Focus, then, is on the stuff I can sow under glass – where it would have to be watered anyway – or things I can plant out either through the plastic mulch on the field or in the plastic world of the polytunnel. A bit foolishly, in retrospect, I spent the cool of the early morning working through my seed box picking out the most urgent sowings for the next seven days.

Then it was time to unblock the log jam of things massing on the hardening off tables. I’ve bemoaned my inability to ensure a smooth transition of seedlings from greenhouse to field before and clearly nothing’s changed. For example, a yellowing tangle of sweet peas awaited me there. At least they were in better shape than the ones on the field which have really struggled in the absence of any rain. With Emma’s help,  I picked out the hopeless losers from the field planting and replaced them with the merely unhealthy from pots. This is clearly not going to be my proudest year sweat-pea wise. 

After this florid detour I could fill the gaps on the tables with artichokes and slightly jaundiced-looking courgettes. The arrival of the yellow ‘La Poste’ van, though, meant a new floral challenge:



Fifty little lavender plants to form the backbone of the herb garden. I set about getting them in the ground as soon as possible. By the time I’d mixed gravel and lime into each planting hole I only managed ten. Then this happened:



I can take a hint. Time for a lunch break.