Yesterday I was doing bag packing in Sainsbury’s as a fundraiser for my son’s playgroup. Seeing the copious amounts of food of all kinds that go into people’s trolleys made me think that if for some reason supermarket deliveries were hit by a crisis and stopped, we would all be in big trouble. Hardly any of us would have access to homegrown food, a lot of people wouldn’t know how to grow it and even if we learned to grow it we wouldn’t know how to cook it. We would probably even struggle to go to the local farms to get supplies because they have neither diverse enough produce nor the infrastructure to supply food locally.
This led me to make more serious considerations about our garden again. I haven’t really thought much about it over the winter, it has been frozen and covered in snow a lot of the time, but yesterday I remembered my discovery from last summer: Gardening is a fascinating subject!
A year ago I had no clue at all. The only gardening effort I had made was planting flowers in pots to look pretty and maybe the occasional container with parsley.
Today I found myself making a schedule of the stuff we could plant this year with notes on when to plant and important things to remember. How did this happen?!
Lately I have been reading a book by Michelin starred chef Paul Merrett. A few years ago he decided to become self sufficient, despite having only the same flowerpot level gardening knowledge as me and he managed to get an allotment somewhere in West London. The book describes how he and his family gets on and then gives recipes for all the veg they produce. It is a well written and inspiring book. I particularly like it because he makes me feel less like a fool! If a Michelin starred chef whose daily life is centred around food hasn’t got a clue how to grow vegetables, then surely I am excused for my pathetic gardening knowledge. What’s even better is that he manages to answer some of the very basic questions, that I would probably be too embarrassed to ask a garden expert about. (Anybody wanting to borrow the book – send me a message).
So I am now attempting to plan what will be in the garden this year. Obviously the corner we have dug up is nowhere near the size of an allotment and becoming completely self sufficient isn’t really on the agenda (yet..), but the more I read the more fascinated I become. All these little things to know, e.g. peas can become rather tall, so it is a good idea to plant something next to it that prefers midday shade like radishes or beetroot, or never grow potatoes in the same place 2 years in a row as it increases the risk of disease, or something I would never have guessed: to attract useful insects and beasties you can plant specific flowers such as calendula.
I am beginning to see the garden in a completely different light. When we are planting stuff we might as well plant something that has a dual purpose, not just something to look nice. Several of my pots that used to be filled with flowers will this year be filled with lettuce and herbs and hopefully some ‘useful’ flowers. If only I had truly realised what you can grow in pots earlier I could have had all sorts of edible stuff even in our old garden, which was about the size of a stamp.
I am already having visions of extending the vegetable patch even further (we don’t need a lot of grass do we?!) and I am seeing bare patches all over that could maybe be filled with something edible.
Obviously I am partly daydreaming here. The chances of us having a highly successful crop anytime soon are not particularly high. What is much more likely is that despite all my planning things will get disrupted from the beginning. The weekends we are supposed to be planting will probably be very rainy or if the weather is suitable for gardening the likelihood is that something will come up that we have to go to or even more likely, projects will have to be abandoned halfway through because the kids will refuse to be in the garden for more than 15 minutes or they will batter each other with shovels or they will enjoy digging so much they dig up the seeds or …
The same thing will probably happen when it comes to weeding and then of course again at harvesting if something actually comes up. If we do manage to get anything in quantities larger than just one meal I could easily face a cooking problem as well – like a lot of people I am much better at cooking pasta than I am at being creative with radishes and chard.
Still I have to keep the dream going, there is something surprisingly satisfactory about making stuff grow. If things get really bad I guess I can always turn to my Paul Merrett book for inspiration – if he can do it, surely I can too… (Yes???)