Hormones and horticulture…

Hormones and horticulture…

I love gardening. The outdoor type. Couldn’t grow an indoor plant to save my life; I always dread it when well meaning guests come with trust and generosity, bearing the gift of an indoor plant to grow, talk to, arrange violin lessons for and all that other stuff that indoor plants seem to need; I shudder each time, in the knowledge that it’ll probably be dead the next time they come.

But something that grows outside and will, therefore, be largely taken care of by God, who is a vastly superior gardener, is a completely different proposition.

Every year, my first harbinger of spring is the arrival of seed catalogues in early January. I get a little frisson of vernal optimism as I rip the cellophane off the outside and begin planning my vegetable growing for the year.

My vegetable garden wasn’t always a vegetable garden. In days when the closest thing to a refuse disposal system was the keeping of one or two nicely fattening family pigs which ate anything that the family didn’t, what is now our vegetable garden was a waste disposal unit. When we bought the house, this was a largish walled area on two levels, with some tumble down sheds at one end, brambles that would have done Sleeping Beauty proud, and stones. Lots of stones. Big ones.

Ever one to let ambition outweigh common sense I made plans. I got Kevin’s brother, Graham, to timber off four twelve foot by twelve foot square beds on the lower level, Kevin repaired the surrounding stone wall in order to keep deer, bunnies and badgers out, and I started to clear the ground. Actually, whereas most people of common sense would have cleared it before they started planting things, I, with habitual impetuosity, chose to demonstrate Kevin’s adage that the key thing about common sense is that it’s not common, and planted as I went – potatoes, I seem to remember. I would like to record that to plant each twelve foot row of tubers, it took about two hours of sweating, cursing and broken fingernails. Fortunately, over the years, it’s got easier.

And the resultant potatoes were worth the effort.

I now manage to grow about ninety-five percent of my families’ needs in our own garden, and I make good use of three freezers in order store it all.

But I find as the years tick by, it never ceases to amaze me how after that first excitement as the catalogues land on the doormat and the seeds are ordered, I am then overwhelmed as everything starts to arrive; there always seems to be too much else to do. Each year I am daunted by that hill to climb of ground to dig over, weeds to clear, planting, watering, keeping the slugs off (there will be slugs in Hell, don’t talk to me about all God’s creatures etc., etc., I think he was having an off day when he came up with slugs), weeding, harvesting, blanching, freezing. And, while the wind blows and the rain falls, the newly purchased little packets sit untouched on the shelf, and look accusingly at me; I can’t say that I look forward to it all with any relish at all.

But something odd happens around the end of April, beginning of May. Like hormones kicking in in a teenager – the sap rises, birds start arguing over territories, lambs start baa-ing in the fields and I start to feel the call of the garden centre. Weird. Suddenly, my vegetable patch is the only place I want to be. I’ll sneak off there at any opportunity, shirking more weighty responsibilities and wearing horrendous shoes and old clothing that can only be described as eccentric.

Well, the sun is shining, and, judging by my characteristic attire, it would seem that my horticultural hormones have kicked in over the last few days. So far, I’ve planted four rows of broad beans, three rows of swedes, my first two rows of carrots, first two rows of beet root, some parsnips (more to come), first rows of mange tout, peas and sugar snap peas, cabbages, and in the greenhouse I have sweet potatoes, squashes, courgettes, three types of tomatoes and green beans germinating either in pots or in beds.

It’s all started.

I may be some time.

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