I’ve been so lax of late when it comes to blogging. This post is a case in point: it’s taken me over three weeks to ponder, write and publish. I could make all kinds of excuses (one of which I’ll go into in a sec), but the long and short of it is that I’ve filled nearly all of my free time with activities that don’t necessarily involve a computer; by the time I’ve scrubbed my hands clean/picked pieces of tapestry wool off my clothing/cast stitches on or off knitting needles/detached a sleeping cat from my lap, I’ve had neither the time nor (more importantly) the inclination to write about whatever I’ve been doing. As autumn advances and winter inevitably follows, there’ll be more time for baking, cooking and writing about baking and cooking.
Spring and summer this year have seen what I can only describe as a transformation of the garden and, consequently, my hobbies and mind-set. But let me rewind a little to last year. There was nothing growing in the sterile, barren space that I jokingly called the garden; a few cigarette stubs and an old plastic bin, and that was the lot. Then Himself arrived. We bought a few pots and planted a few seeds which, amazingly, actually germinated and grew into marigolds and sweet peas and some monstrous flowering thing that I’ve yet to remember the name of; we brought home some growing herbs and potted those and hoped for the best. Himself put up some hanging baskets in which we’d planted geraniums and petunias. Some careful nurturing generally, and cautious yet ultimately rather enthusiastic pruning of the lavender plants more specifically, and most of the new contents of the garden survived the winter.
Then came Spring. I kind of blame ASDA for the flurry of purchases that began, because they had a 4-for-3 deal on packets of seeds and… well, we went a bit bananas. Next thing I knew, we’d bought three 70-litre sacks of compost, seeds for growing EDIBLE STUFF, gardening gloves (I’m not wrecking my nails) and we may even have had some cat food in the trolley before we marched out of the supermarket, went home and planted.
And we planted and we planted and we planted. Runner beans (of which we now have 2 kilos preserved in the freezer), peas and cherry tomatoes, together with mini sunflowers, freesias and other bulbs that never really produced anything. These were followed by a magnolia tree, a wisteria, a Virginia creeper and a viburnum (hooray for the internet, online shopping and Twitter recommendations). And still we kept planting: pansies, larkspur, petunias, sweet peas and more geraniums; onions, potatoes and garlic (bloody garlic!); a few soft fruit shrubs of which the raspberry bush is still flowering as we near November; later (probably too late, admittedly) dill, courgettes, squash, chard, carrots, broad beans and more peas (which are already yielding a crop – hooray). And even more recently, red basil (red basil! Who knew?!), more dill, as well coriander, oregano and a few more other things that I’ve probably been too precipitate in planting but now we have a plastic greenhouse, I figured it was worth experimenting.
As we’ve pottered around and watched seeds germinate and grow, so have our plans and ideas for next year and beyond. Himself has built and painted the most amazing, enormous raised bed which is now home to the raspberry bush, the castor oil plant, the fuchsia, begonias and other stuff that I can’t recall offhand (which seems a little unfair, seeing as I spend a lot of time looking at the contents of the raised bed while I’m digging up cat poo). There are more raised beds to come, as we rescued a load of wood on Freecycle and bought a tonne (no, literally a tonne) of compost, and of course we still have the containers that we’ve been using for annual plants that have now, alas, had their chips (that’s a technical gardening term for you). We even have a composter now.
The aim? Relative self-sufficiency, and a pretty, gloriously flower-scented garden in which to consume the fruits of our labours. We love food (that “we” includes the cats). The problem is that food prices are spiralling – they have been for months – and I really object to paying £2 for TWO courgettes when I know how much a packet of courgette seeds costs and how many flowers – and, therefore, the potential number of actual courgettes – a courgette plant can produce even as winter steadily approaches (climate change, anyone? Anyone?). Also, homegrown tomatoes may take forever to ripen (if they ripen at all – thank you, British summer) but they taste like tomatoes, not those bland hydroponically-grown things that pass for tomatoes these days. In addition to all that, I’m not sure that you can put a price on the pleasure that you derive from growing and nurturing living things, the excitement that comes with new shoots or new flower buds, and protecting everything from the dreaded cat poo.
I wish I had the words to express the sheer amount of joy the garden has brought us this year. Yes, I’ve sworn a lot too, and even cried over snapped stems and leaves holed by hungry bastard slugs and snails. I’ve fretted about tomatoes not ripening and then cursed them when they’ve split through being over-ripe. And I’ve learned a huge amount: going from knowing
very little well, fuck all, if I’m honest, to watching Gardener’s World on BBC2 and trawling through old copies of Royal Horticultural Society publications that I’ve bought for 99p on eBay. Goodbye, shoe budget; hello, plethora of reference books on how to grow vegetables and care for trees and climbing plants…
I’m truly not trying to brag; when I take a step back and examine all we’ve done this year in the garden, (a) I don’t recognise the space and (b) I struggle to recognise myself! Gardening was never something that I ever, EVER thought would be my bag; yet I can be found most mornings (if it’s not raining), pootling round the garden in my dressing gown before breakfast, making sure all that plants are okay and picking tomatoes and peas and raspberries.
So I guess what I’m trying (and failing) to say is this: if you have a spare pot, whatever the size, plant something – anything – in it. Keep a pot of living herbs on your kitchen window sill. Start small and, if you enjoy it, work upwards…
… And grow.