Gardening for me has been a way of grounding myself in the world. It has been a way of understanding my history, my family and the necessity of the natural world.
My gardening CV isn’t up to much – it wouldn’t win me any awards in a village fete and I certainly wouldn’t feel confident in sharing wisdom to strangers. But it’s a journey and I am taking my time. Like the Greeks say ‘siga siga’ (slowly, slowly) you can’t rush nature, whether it’s waiting for a seed to germinate or the season to change, all happens in its own time. It has taught be me to be patient, slow down, savour the effort you put in, there will be frustrations, but the rewards are bountiful.
Last year I had many failures, seeds and tubers that just disappeared into the earth, no shoots, a sad nothing. I had tender seedlings that died in April, they were out too early and the weather was unpredictable cold. These things happen and you learn from them, The weather is simultaneously your best friend and enemy, I’ve learn to go with it. Take risks and know that the rules of garden wisdom are meant to be heeded!
We all have personal memories of a childhood garden, my own are probably no different. Growing up in market town, cul de sac house, quite a big garden to run around and play in, But I loved the mud, getting dirty up to my elbows in the soil and making piles, collecting worms, ripping petals from my dad’s roses and making ‘perfume’. Summer was heaven, long days of sunshine stretched before me – a 7 year old has no sense of time – just the endless hours to fill with play.
Although childhood feels like forever, its really a short part of your formative years and as a young adult those student shared houses were no places to be green fingered. But when I moved to Oxford to take up my first ‘proper job’ that changed. I lived in a house with a mature garden that the landlord wanted us to look after, so I took on that challenge, spending hours after work and at weekends cutting back the overgrown jungle!
I have always had an interest in cooking and food, the mechanic of food production never fails to scare me. Although I like nothing more than stalking round a supermarket,picking up ingredients and comparing the vast array of produce on offer, I do worry about the monster of food production on a global scale, the sustainable impact of what we eat and where it comes from. I don’t want tomatoes from a poly tunnel in the driest habitat in Morocco. I want them grown in a wet hot landscape so they make sense to me and the environment. Food should be in season, unadulterated and not always available. Every child should learn about food. I did. It roots us in the simplest human instinct to provide.
Nothing gave me more joy last year than growing vegetables for the first time. 18 months after moving in, we had finally got the garden to a state where this was possible. From the small scale like beetroots, radishes and lettuce leaves. To the garden staples like broadbeans, tomatoes and onions. But surprises cam in strange shapes. Like the cucumbers which were such a curveball, late sown, free seeds from a magazine and boy did those ‘Market Mores’ live up to their name! We had a glut that kept on giving! I learnt so much last year about planning and seedling management. I couldn’t bear to dump any of the viable courgette seedlings last year so we had 5 very fruitful courgette plants. At least 4 courgettes a week in August was way too many or a household of two!
So this year, its taking all the learning from last and building on it…onwards and like the sunflower, always upwards!