We have made the most of the mild conditions, with Scotland enjoying some of the warmest temperatures in Western Europe through much of February. Snowdrops and Aconite have been showing beautifully in the woodland, with the Narcissi well up before the end of the month.
Good ground conditions have allowed outdoor sowings of Parsnip, Broad Bean, Peas and Beetroot, while Shallot sets have also gone in. Perennial crops are wakening, with the earliest stems of Rhubarb well on their way, while fruiting buds of Apples, and particularly Pears, are already swelling.
In recent days several Bumble Bee queens have been on the wing, looking impossibly big as they always seem to. Elders are greening up in sheltered pockets on the woodland edge, while birds are busily prospecting for nest sites.
The gardens continue to be of real value to a wide range of groups and individuals.
P4 classes from Craiglockhart Primary have visited twice during the month, the beginning of a programme that will run through the spring and summer terms. The kids enjoyed a long tour of the gardens over two perfect early spring mornings, then helped to transplant vegetable seedlings into the beds.
Third and fourth year Geography students from Edinburgh University joined us for a day in February, as part of a week of practical volunteering aimed at showcasing local environmental projects. Families from the Steiner school mucked in on Sunday 19th, preparing a large area of ground for spring planting.
Vegetables were provided for a community meal hosted by Shandon Local Food Group early in February, while SLFG collaborated with Transition Edinburgh South to put on a very well attended series of composting training courses at the gardens. These focussed primarily on vermiculture, with participants constructing worm boxes to take home. There are some excellent photos on the Shandon website, including some good shots of the gardens;
We have managed to purchase the site portacabin, a move that should reduce ongoing running costs and allow us to customise the building to better suit the needs of our community gardeners.
Funding has been secured to purchase more soft fruit stock and native shrubs, with the aim of planting more edibles in the woodland areas, and enhancing wildlife habitats. A number of corporate teams have booked in over the spring to assist with these new projects.
Finally, good luck to Fernando Perez, a real champion of the gardens. He is off to New Zealand to work in viticulture for 3 months having previously worked in the Rioja region of Spain. Cheers Fernando!