It seems that spring is here. We've had temperatures around 12-15° centigrade, and despite a sudden dip when it dropped to 1° overnight, killing off the surfinia I'd nursed all through the winter months but had recently uncovered, things are starting to grow again. The pansies have doubled in size, the biennials and perennials are putting out new foliage...
and the sedum is covered in flower shoots.
The bulbs I planted last year are also all well on their way. Look - who's this poking his head through? It's the Monster from the Deep.
Unfortunately though, spring also means spring cleaning. Balconies get mucky - especially in a horrendously polluted city like Milan - and believe me, cleaning a balcony is no more fun than cleaning the kitchen. But now's the best time to do it really thoroughly, before all the containers go back in place, get filled with plants and become difficult to move.
So last weekend saw me out there with my bucket of Ajax, washing down the railings and all the shelving that the containers sit on. And next weekend is the turn of the containers themselves, which need emptying, washing out and disinfecting - important to stop the spread of any diseases from last year to this year's plants.
Then I need to wash the plants. Yes, them too. As rain only comes onto the balcony in a really severe storm, they get just as dirty as the balcony itself. And it's a job I hate. I am not a patient, precise person, and standing for hours gently cleaning one leaf at a time is not my idea of the fun side of gardening.
That done though, there's only one job left - I'll have to get rid of the old soil. Luckily I only have to carry it all downstairs, as it can go in the garden underneath the balcony. Last year quite a lot of seeds seemed to have got themselves mixed up in it. Funny that.
And then, with all the clearing up done, I can finally start again. Pass me the trowel someone.