Spring coming earlier: why gardeners should be mindful

January is still with us, February only beckons; Spring is many weeks away.

Problem is, these are just arbitrary words and we should be mindful that they are terms that Nature does not recognise.

For many, Spring is the time of re-birth and regeneration as the earth sheds its Winter cloak and assumes a bright green mantle. Chaucer referenced this in the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, in his descriptions of April being the month when small birds begin to sing all night, and he later introduces the young squire who is like them in that he is awake at night due to his lustfulness.

Whan that Aprille …
… smale fowles maken melodye,
That slepen al the night with open ye,
(So priketh hem nature in hir corages)

In April small birds sing and are watchful all night (as stirred by nature)

… a yong Squyer,
A lovyere, and a lusty bacheler,
So hote he lovede, that by nightertale
He sleep namore than dooth a nightingale,

A young Squire was such a lustful bachelor that he hardly slept at night, just like the nightingale.

But that was in the fourteenth century.

This morning I saw the buzzards who nest on the bluff behind our home circling overhead, crying to each other, in their courtship dance. The blackbirds were darting low to the ground from shrub to shrub, our friendly robin was close by while I pruned the dogwood, and the blue-tits have returned. We now have worm casts galore and the moles are pushing up hills as they excavate their tunnels and, presumably, nesting chambers. We have an increasing numbers of snowdrops, and there is evidence of yellow tops to many of the daffodils.

All these signs are wondrous to me. Spring as we recognise it certainly appears to be arriving earlier. But that also comes with a modicum of fear. When I reread old gardening books the ‘jobs to do this month’ no longer hold.

Whereas in the past I might have thought about cutting back shrubs and hedges in late Winter or early Spring, I’m beginning now. Winter is not yet half way through but I’m reasoning that very soon birds will be eyeing up potential nesting sites. Last year we had two calamities, both with blackbirds. The first was when a large climbing honeysuckle was pruned, not too much, but enough to frighten off a blackbird pair that had settled on it for nesting unbeknown to us. The second was a pair of blackbirds that had nested in a pile of branches; from the abandoned nest, dead chicks, and the mass of feathers we assumed that a weasel had got the male. Fortunately we had another pairing later in the year – hopefully the female who’d lost her mate – and we still have a thriving blackbird family.

Final thoughts

I live in North Wales but I’m sure that this situation will be common elsewhere. So please be mindful of the wildlife in your garden before you start planning your gardening projects. Leave berries available by not cutting back and discarding fruited branches; and if you have shrubs that would benefit from pruning do it before the birds begin nesting.
It won’t only be the wildlife that benefits. Believe me.

I hope you have enjoyed my post and that it’s given food for thought. If so, please like, share, and comment. If you have any tips or knowledge to share please add it in the comments box below.
Thank you for reading.