A cold snap has embraced us for the last couple of days. We postponed a trip to the plot on Saturday, hoping for warmer weather on Sunday, but no such luck. If anything, it was colder. I spent Sunday morning walking on Hampstead Heath in a wintery wonderland with Polly and the girls, the temperature struggled to get much above 1ºc. Last week’s muddy paths had become a craggy lunar landscape as hard as granite. I knew whatever the temperature on the heath, our plot is always a few degrees colder, and so it was when we arrived just after lunch. A frost pocket lined with glittering crystals of ice. It was an exercise in cryogenics, the breath of life frozen stiff, petrified in a coat of ice.
Tiny seedlings of winter cress held in suspended animation. Even the mizuna had been stopped in it’s tracks, as brittle as plate glass. On the neighbouring plot, Geoffrey’s dahlias had collapsed and turned black with one swish of an icy wand. The same hand that scythed down his banana plants (they must have seen it coming).
In this frozen freeze frame moment nothing moved, except a pair of flittering red breasted robins, perhaps hoping we’d disturb the frozen soil or, more preferably, produce a handful of peanuts from a pocket.
We had planned to hoe the soil, apply the liquid comfrey fertilizer and generally spread some love on our forlorn post-November plot, but jumpin’ jack frost had put paid to our noble aspirations. We collected a few semi-frozen salad leaves and a couple of beautiful wine-speckled ‘Castel Franco’ chicories (later served in salad with sweet balsamic vinegar and roasted hazelnuts) and headed home.