Being Cheered up by the Veg Patch Micro-Colours

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This Monday is supposedly the most depressing day of the year. Started as an advertising campaign for a travel company, ‘Blue Monday’ is based on an equation that includes weather conditions, levels of debt, time elapsed since Christmas and the amount of new year’s resolutions we’ve failed to stick to.

The weather is certainly rubbish, and I’ve just eaten several chocolates, so that’s a resolution out of the window. In searching for a lift, I’ve inevitably headed to the veg garden. Trouble is, that’s a rather miserable place to be at the moment too. So, I’m looking for what I call micro-colour. Winter is not a time for stunning veg specimens or bright, flowering plants, but look carefully enough and the colour is gently making its way back on to the plot. The sayings go that biggest isn’t always best, and some of the loveliest things come in the smallest packages. For me, this is very true in the depths of winter, and the micro-colours bring a smile to my face. January is an exciting time in the miraculous annual globe artichoke fightback.

At the end of every Autumn my artichoke plants shrivel up into a soggy, brown mess. It’s a sad time. A solid sign that summer has well and truly passed. I pore over the leaves, pulling the mush around, convinced I’ve seen the last of the purple flowering annual. Then, as the new year turns, something amazing happens. The artichokes begin to show signs of life after a dormant winter, and then before I know it, the silvery green leaves are growing again.

The leaves are still small in comparison to their mid-season size, but this rejuvenation never fails to cheer me up when I make a mid-winter trip to the plot. The plants are alive and kicking again, and within a few months they’ll be several feet high once more. The lush new growth on my strawberry plant is another welcome splash of micro-colour, especially when contrasted to the leaves from last year, which I haven’t got around to picking off. For a bigger yield, I planted my new plants in September for harvesting this summer, and they’ve taken well.

Whilst everything else is barren, to see strong, green growth is particularly gratifying. My favourite January image is rhubarb poking up from the soil. For me, rhubarb is the best harvest of all, and the first sign of the beautifully pinky little sticks fills me with joy and anticipation of the delights to come.

Rhubarb in the Snow

You have to look closely for life in the crowns, but during the first weekend of the year, it came. Now the stalks are about 3 inches high, and offering rosy tint against the dull soil backdrop. I’m tempted to put a bucket over some of the crowns to force them on, but I can’t bring myself to obscure the fresh, new hues.

However, one of the injections of micro-colour I love most during winter is not vegetable or plant based. What really brightens my day is the faithful, friendly Robin and it’s familiar, striking red breast. Growing up, I adored the little robin that used to come in to our conservatory and impatiently wait for seeds to be put out, and nowadays I’ve got my own resident Robin. He sits on the fence watching me dig, before swooping down to pinch an exposed earthworm.

Robins are known as ‘the ploughman’s bird’ due to the company they traditional provide the lonely gardener during winter. Like the rhubarb, strawberries and artichokes, the red flash of micro-colour is only a tiny dot on the landscape, but it’s a warming, reassuring pick up just when us gardeners need one.

Thanks for reading!

This post came from Jono from the cheery gardening blog Real Men Sow.