A warm welcome to February, it’s time to dig in

Finally there. February. Inching ever closer to spring. The slow freeing of winter’s skeletal grip. Or so we tell ourselves. The garden stories we need.

The days are breathing deeper. The ponds coming alive. Iris leaves unfurling. Frogs spawning. The earth breathing in.

But anyway: to jobs to do this month. To dig if you still do. Our heavy horse manure finally made it to the plot. Howard and I, one sunny January day, as Otis (his dog) fought greedily with sticks, trundled our 25 bags of old-school, strawed goodness to the allotment.

Over this next month, we will dig much of it in, clear beds for broad beans, agonise over potatoes. We have skipped planting them for the past couple of years. But somewhere, softly, there is a Seamus Heaney call: ‘By God, the old man could handle a spade. Just like his old man…’

In the absence of peat turf in Devon, I forever associate this with Dudley: Dad’s obsession with new potatoes, freshly dug, freshly boiled, a slice of salty, yellow butter.

Even I, though, appear to have shuddered to a halt with obsessive seed-buying. Deciding (for now) against starting early in trays and returning to slowing, to sowing in situ.

The new narcissi bulbs are showing through. The resident wild fennels are shooting from the base. The poppies from last year are scattered happily. Even the cress-like orache shoots seem to have survived. For now at least.

Meanwhile, any garlic and shallots will need to go in if you want them to thrive. There is work to do to carry winter crops through. To pick through kales and leeks. To lift the last of the jerusalem artichokes.

Mainly, perhaps, try to visit a little more regularly, tidy up, talk to any returning neighbours. Check on tools. We are still in need of a fork, though we’re hoping Howard may find one in his dad’s old shed. Soon it will be time to hoe. A gentler dig.

Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from guardianbookshop.com