It is seed planting season again. This is an ‘exciting’ time for us gardeners, well it is for me. I relish the daily scrutiny of the seed trays to detect the first appearance of tiny green shoots signifying fruitful germination. This is mainly because my success rate is around 50% which is probably quite low but as a result, makes the ensuing emergence more awesome than would be for those horticulturists with higher rates. This year my seed planting has been somewhat curtailed as I won’t be around to benefit from the fruits (or vegetables) of my labours for those which harvest late in the year. I have always grown a selection of summer veg and salads but also a substantial amount of winter vegetables. We are actually still eating last year’s broccoli as I was rather late planting out so it is beginning to flourish again in the warmth and light of spring.
A few weeks ago I embarked on my seed selection for this year and was quite distracted by having to choose, not just by eating preference, growing conditions and degree of difficulty but also harvest season. This left me with a selection of salad veg, for which it is too early to sow and annual flowers. I don’t usually bother growing bedding plants from seed, just purchase them from my favourite garden centre up the road. I took a chance with an old but unopened packet of lobelia from 2006 and yes, they are emerging in profusion. I also sowed a packet of Sweet Peas which were distributed recently at a dear friend’s funeral which I thought was a lovely gesture. As these were new, I did feel that my success rate may be higher than usual because I also, unusually for me, followed the instructions meticulously but no, just the usual 50% – so far.
I am trying, yet again, to grow cucumbers because they are frequent residents on the shopping list. I have never managed to grow one to eat; last year I did actually manage to produce 2 but at only 2-3 inches long they were not really edible. I have attributed my lack of success with these, tomatoes and sweetcorn to the altitude, 700ft up in the lee of the Pennines, and the lack of a greenhouse, but live in hope although this year will be their last chance.
The potatoes are planted regardless due to their beneficial effects on the soil; I suppose the weeds will be able to grow more robustly next year. I’m still sowing from the same packet of leeks that I started 3 years ago, into a 40 section tray. Some of them may be ready before I leave but they do seem to manage quite well being left in the soil until required as I’ve not long finished last year’s crop. I’m still trying to propagate a few marigolds, not so much for their beauty and colour but to act symbiotically in the vegetable garden where they grow vigorously in the extra-fertile soil. This is in conjunction with the nasturtiums I planted one year to attract the black fly away from the veg. They have self-set every year since providing a carpet of dish-like leaves interspersed with vibrant flowers, the former can be consumed in a salad and the latter used as a beautiful plate decoration, avoiding the blackfly infested parts obviously, so belong in a kitchen garden twice over.
The other beds are looking expectant since digging in the wonderful compost which had been festering in the garden heap. The vegetable patch heaps were rather sad owing to a significant absence of the essential bright pink skinny wiggly worms. I transferred a huge spadeful of them from the garden compost bin to the veg patch bins in the hope of stimulating the required decomposition. These empty beds will, no doubt, produce luxuriant weeds which I will not be able to tolerate this year but feel quite saddened about for subsequent years.
The location of the vegetable garden is in a piece of land belonging to a neighbour and I have yet to inform them of my plans. They have a large garden with a sizable vegetable patch so it is unlikely they would want to maintain another one. My son has no real desire to maintain it despite his awareness of healthy eating. I should perhaps work harder on nurturing that interest instead of nurturing the plants but I have little time left to enlighten him through a gardening year. I have some friends living quite close who downsized both house and garden, losing their kitchen garden, but they did not bite when I informed them of my dilemma so I think it will revert to nature – a butterfly garden perhaps. Hopefully the neighbours may like to continue to maintain the fruit as they are perennials and they don’t actually have any. They should have some strawberries as I gave them 6 plants from the runners mine had emitted but I didn’t see any sign of them when I was minding their tomato plants during their holiday, I hope they weren’t substandard.
I would like to think that I will be able to put some of this horticultural experience to good use in our adventures, particularly in the agriculturally based WWOOFing or even some other type of cash-neutral venture with which we may become involved. Presumably not in the ski fields though! I have read of a young man who started teaching English in a newly built but poorly staffed school in South East Asia who was in the area helping as a volunteer on an organic farm – coincidence? I suspect not, I think he had found a wonderful combination. Many of the TEFL jobs are based in cities and major urban areas which I suspect will not have the same agricultural requirements as rural areas. There is a significant dichotomy materialising whereby I am trying to escape from the ‘progress’ of western society and to revert to a more simplistic, natural way of life, yet those societies I am trying to find, in which to integrate, are trying to catch up and emulate the very societies from which I’m escaping. Perhaps I am chasing rainbows but I’m ready to compromise.