April blossoms

28 April 2017
Thanks to the clocks leaping forward an hour last month we can now really feel the sun’s presence growing ever stronger.
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Tree blossoms and fresh young leaves start to emerge and brighten our surroundings. Fresh green nettles, cow parsley and other wild spring plants are starting to push up out of the ground. In our spring meadow, cowslips are always the first to flower, pushing up their dainty yellow flower heads on long, straight stalks.

We’ve had a beautifully sunny spring here at the Weleda gardens in Derbyshire, although the dry weather has caused us some concern particularly with the seeds that we’ve sown directly into the ground.

Over the years we’ve noticed the weather getting increasingly temperamental and we have to watch the weather patterns very closely, using our intuition alongside the biodynamic calendar, to find the right times to sow, cultivate, plant and harvest.

This month our harvests start to focus on fresh new leafy growth and spring flowers. Our much-loved cowslips (Primula veris) will get harvested on three separate occasions. They’re a delight to harvest as they’re such interesting flowers with a very delicate scent. These flowers get chopped up, mixed with purified water and organic ethanol, and then gently heated up to 37 degrees and held at that temperature for an hour; a very specific technique to Weleda called a digestion. Another beautifully fragrant harvest is of the fresh new growth of Thuja (Thuja occidentalis). We collect the tips of the current years new growth which then omit a strong cedar-like scent. We also harvest the fresh new leaf growth of the Blackthorn tree (Prunus spinosa) and the flowering tops of Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis). All these plants are made into mother tinctures and used for remedies in our Pharmacy.

The main period of seed sowing starts in April. Because we grow using biodynamic techniques we aim to do all our sowings in the week before the full moon, ensuring strong and vigorous germinations which get the seedlings off to a good start. It’s a heartening scene to have a greenhouse full of seed trays and modules; representing new life and potential.

We’re growing oats (Avena sativa) this year for a big harvest in early summer. These seeds are sown directly into prepared ground in one of our crop fields. This dry spring has caused a few worried expressions over germination rates. But they’re now starting to emerge out of the ground – phew! We have also invested in a hawk kite to help discourage the pigeons and magpies from eating our precious seeds and seedlings. We’ll harvest at the flowering stage in May/June, when we have just a 3-4 day window of opportunity of optimum quality before the flowers set, which can be a bit nail-biting! The regular summer jobs of weeding and mowing now begin. We save our grass clippings and weeds for compost making so nothing goes to waste.

April also brings us a fresh supply of sun-coloured dandelion flowers. These plants are very important to us, not only for bees and other insects to feed from, but for us to pick and dry for use as one of our biodynamic compost preparations. We only pick the newly opened flowers on a flower day, on a sunny morning before noon and slowly dry them over the next few weeks.

As the soil is now beginning to warm up we apply a spray of another biodynamic preparation, horn manure, in the late afternoon. This helps to stimulate soil vitality and encourages plants to connect with the specific conditions of their particular growing site. It also encourages plants to send their roots deep into the soil, increases earthworm activity and better moisture retention in the soil.

We have quite a few ‘new’ things appearing this month in the garden. We have two new seasonal gardeners join our team to help us out during the growing season, a new pond created in the compound area which will provide another area of helpful habitat and a new compost toilet. It’s great to see things evolving and progressing. We have an open day on the 2nd July, so if you would like to see what we do and why, please find the details on our website.