‘All my hurts my garden spade can heal.’ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I love that quotation; for me, it sums up the pure pleasure of being completely absorbed with jobs in the garden. I spent the whole day yesterday and today doing just that. Not that I had any hurts in need of healing but just to be able to spend all that time digging, raking, weeding, sowing, planting and planning was wonderful.
I’m trying to be organised with seed sowing this year- a necessity born of being back in full-time work – so I’ve written lists on a calendar of what needs to go in when; needless to say, April has by far the longest list. (This is just what’s going in the kitchen garden patch, Roger’s in charge of everything else).
I set up a workbench on the picnic table to give me somewhere to sort all those seeds out.
As I’d dug much of the patch over a few weeks ago, the bit I wanted to plant didn’t need too much preparation; another raking over and quick stone pick and I was ready to go. In went mixed lettuce, oriental leaves, rocket and wild rocket, giant goosefoot and rainbow chard; carrots in three colours – orange ‘Nantes’, ‘White Satin’ and ‘Cosmic Purple’ – they look colourful all grated into a salad together; white ‘Paris Silverskin’ spring onion and red ‘Crimson Forest’; finally, two lots of beetroot – ‘Bona’ and those pretty striped ‘Chioggia’ (thanks to Sarah for the seed). Still plenty of other bits to plant once it warms up a bit.
The odd shape of the patch left me with a couple of squares to fill. In one I planted a bloody sorrel plant, bought last autumn.
In the other, a bed of parsley. This can take ages to germinate and there is much British folklore associated with it: it has to go down to the devil and back nine times before it germinates, only wicked women and witches can grow it, where it grows well the woman of the house wears the trousers . . . Read into this what you will but I’ve never had any trouble growing parsley 🙂 Quite honestly, spells aside, the secret is really a bit dull: when you’ve sown the seed, pour a kettle of freshly boiled water over to kickstart germination (don’t forget to include enough for a gardening tea break while you’re at it). I did read a Suffolk saying that parsley sown on Good Friday should come up double so I’m hoping for a good crop. Now, where did I put that broomstick . . ?
Digging over the rest of the patch, I couldn’t believe how much rubbish is still coming out of it. We’ve experienced this in every garden we’ve ever had: rusty wire, broken glass, polythene, lumps of plastic, netting, medicine containers . . . how on earth does it all get there and why do people treat their gardens like rubbish dumps? Also, how come I never dig up anything interesting or valuable?
In Victorian times, this area was a thriving lead and barytes mining community; in fact, the oldest part of our house was a miner’s cottage. Wandering up the garden to see how Roger was getting on with the polytunnel, I began to wonder if he’s trying a re-enactment thing – he seems to be going deeper and deeper and the rock just keeps coming out of the ground. This is the problem with hilly ground, nowhere flat to site a tunnel so the choice is to have one on a slope or dig, dig, dig. It will be worth all the hard work in the end. (Easy for me to say, I’m not doing the digging.)
Staying on the mining theme, the claytonia (aka winter purslane and miner’s lettuce) I planted a couple of weeks ago has germinated well. This is a new salad leaf I’m trying from the Real Seed Catalogue this year, quite a peculiar looking little plant. The idea is that it will make a good overwinter crop in the tunnel but I couldn’t resist trying some now to see how it goes. The name has nothing to do with Shropshire lead mines but rather the Californian gold rush where miners ate it to prevent scurvy; apparently, it’s packed with vitamin C so should be a valuable winter food. My biggest problem now is keeping the slugs off it (and whatever else has been traipsing through the tray, looking at those paw prints).
It’s good to see a few signs of spring around the garden. I’m really thrilled to see the asparagus has survived the move from France and made it through the winter.
The first of the onion sets are through the ground . . .
. . . and how great to see those fresh new leaves on the trees we planted in the autumn.
Today we planted more ‘Early Onward ‘ peas and several rows of ‘Charlotte’ and ‘Desirée’ potatoes and I sowed flower seeds directly into the ground: calendula, borage, Californian poppy, love-in-a-mist, larkspur and hyssop.
The polytunnel preparation is done and with the weather looking favourable, Monday is D-Day for the polythene going on. Two People and a Polytunnel? Mmm…. watch this space! 🙂