The season of firstspring started last week. I usually note it by when the roads first steam after rain and that hasn’t happened yet, but there are enough other cues. Many of the local native wildflowers in my front yard are budding their flowers. The magpies are singing a lot more in preparation for their singing-all-night mating spree which means any day now I’ll hear the Pallid Cuckoos calling as they arrive on their migration cycle. The days have been warm enough to forgo the extra layers of clothing and the nights warm enough to forgo the extra blanket on the bed. The weeds doubled in height just about overnight. And I can spread the butter on my morning toast without using an axe.
Season changes mean a whole host of new things to do, both for me and the kids. We celebrate the cycle of the year as we go, it’s part of the usual teaching the concepts of time and change that happens at this stage of early childhood. And firstspring is a lovely season to show because there’s so much happening that’s so easy for them to notice. Our daffodils have sprouted, we can watch them climb and wait for them to flower. The green kangaroo paws have sent up flower stalks, we can watch for them to open. The Cape Daisy will be forming a yellow carpet soon to dance upon and the Hardenbergia has already started shedding swathes of purple flowers to find underfoot if we visit the river. Down at the river soon we’ll see cygnets, ducklings and baby coots, and that’ll be fun to go looking for too.
Of course, there’s work, too. My 2yo helped me plant the bean screen at the front door. My 4yo helped me start the first seedlings, Mexican marigolds (to fumigate last year’s tomato bed) and clove basil (I love the scent). My two big seedling times of year are autumn and firstspring, so there’ll be more to come but this gets it going. The 4yo and I brushed the windows and doors clean of spiderwebs so that we could wash the windows, and we took down and put away the Midwinter decorations. We always make and put up something for the month or the season so that we can talk about what’s happening around us. Our Midwinter decorations were very pretty this year, and I’d love the firstspring ones to be just as nice but I suspect we’re going to end up with cotton-wool-and-cardboard cygnets hanging from a mobile, I’m not very organised!
My personal task list looks a lot harder, with a lot more digging. This is the last season where the weather’s really cool enough for hard physical work, and it’s also a really strong growing time with both warmth and rain so I try and squeeze a lot in. The “easy” job is to recondition the pot-plant garden, which is a space I keep for the kids to interact with a variety of interesting plants. I’ll repot what needs it, water and fertilise others, possibly buy or grow a few new herbs. But I also need to set up the trellis for the grapes and prune them (August is grape pruning time in Perth), and dig and plant the new sorghum bed. Sorghum is drought tolerant, but it needs to be planted in warm soil that has moisture across the whole profile. So that would be this month.
Then there’s the tree spaces. I need to dig and condition the soil around the trees I’ve planted, removing the couch grass, and make sure they have a space around them big enough to cover where their roots will grow across the next four months. It’ll get mulched at the end of firstspring, around the spring equinox. I’ll also need to plant the last two trees – a Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum) which I’m waiting on order for, and a moringa or Drumstick Tree which I’ll start growing from directly-planted seed when the soil hits 18 degrees or so. That might not be til secondspring though. The garden bed where the Cercis will go needs digging and conditioning. Next to it is a bed based on the shadow of the Tecoma tree, also needing reconditioning and digging through this season – it’s planted with autumn-flowering drought-tolerant perennials, mostly salvia and agastache. I’ll add a couple more of those in now that I’ve lived here a full cycle of seasons, long enough to mark out the final shape of the bed.
Lots of work to do. I should go get started instead of sitting here typing! Just as soon as this lot of showers goes over…