Thursday, 1 March 2012

Out in the garden

Normally I would describe myself as an optimistic gardener. Which is to say: I have no idea what I'm doing most of the time so I just shove it in, chop it off, or pull it up and hope for the best. These days my particular style is also taking on a new element: hit and run gardening, because with continuing back/leg problems I can only do so much before the pain sets in, and I really can't go overboard otherwise I will likely completely knacker my back again. The optimism extends to the hope that I don't break myself as much as hoping that I don't balls up the poor plants. But I enjoy it, so it's worth it.

So bearing in mind my delicate disposition I'm not planning to do too much in the garden this year. After the storms of a few months or so ago there was quite a bit of damage to the flower bed at the top of the garden, and some of the plants have been blown over or squashed by a large pool liner (or...something) that blew into the flower bed thanks to high winds. There have been some casualties, but most of them will just need propping up, I hope. So far I haven't been able to get any garden canes, but I've been able to do a little tidying up and some much-needed pruning at least. Otherwise, the flower bed will just have to make do this year; serious weeding is not an option.

One thing I do want to do, though, is sort out my shrine area. When we moved here I expanded the flower bed so I could set about making a space that would provide a focal point for any devotions I might want to do out in the garden. I decided that it would be a good way to start working with the land and build a relationship with the spirits by making the space a bit less sterile and lifeless (the previous owners were not keen gardeners so it was even more neglected than it is now), and generally make it a nicer place to be. I'm the kind of person who likes to make their mark on a place, otherwise I don't feel settled.

I chose plants that I knew would attract insects, and ones that would smell nice, and some of them I chose for their associations with festivals (primroses, cowslips, blueberry - the closest I could get to a bilberry bush) or lore in general (a juniper and the rowan tree in particular). Others I put in for personal associations - a rose and a poppy (a namesake, for my granddad who was a professional gardener), and I also made a small cairn for my ancestors and put in a small pond (more like a puddle, but with the idea of having it as a sort of 'well'). Around it I've set some tasteful decorations, chosen by the kids, and made a space for offerings, and a bird box that I didn't have anywhere to hang; I thought it could act as a shelter for insects instead.

And that's all been well and good, but it's been a little neglected over the last year or so, and considering the fact that my optimistic gardening inevitably results in a tendency for overcrowding, it needs a bit of work. On the plus side, some of it is settling in nicely now:

Some of the casualties have solved the overcrowding, but it all still needs a bit of care. My daughter Rosie has decided that she wants to make a bee hive, and while we probably couldn't do one for bumblebees there are other kinds of bees we could try to accommodate along with butterflies and other insects. They seem simple enough to make, so hopefully we'll be able to find a suitable spot for it, and it seems like a good opportunity for the kids to get involved and help out. My future efforts are probably going to have to rely on willing minions, so I might as well start them young...

Meanwhile, there's vegetables to be getting on with. At the end of the harvest season last year I left some leeks in to see if they'd fill out over the winter. They did (and survived the incessant rain we've been having recently), and the kids and I harvested them yesterday afternoon:

And, while it wasn't raining, we put in some vegetables. This year I'm going to stick to the vegetables I've had the most success with - carrots, leeks and onions - and I'm experimenting with peas, too. The kids helped me put the peas and onions in:

This time I'm trying onion bulbs (rather than growing from seeds), a bog standard variety and some red onions; my neighbour insists that bulbs give better results, and certainly they'll probably grow quicker and I might manage to get two crops out of the growing season. As the kids were planting the bulbs and peas I suggested that we should encourage them to grow nice and big so the kids - evidently taking inspiration from calling the butter lumps to come - began yelling at the veg to GROW! COME ON, GROW! I'm not sure that counts as a proper tradishnal prayer and all that, but it was certainly sincere...

They decided that onions and peas were more than enough fun and went off to have a water fight, so I did the leeks and decided to try a couple of sprouts again. I'm leaving the carrots until I can get to the garden centre and get more compost, so I can freshen up the soil in the grow bags - it's probably a little exhausted by now. For the onion bags I've just put in a little organic feed and we'll see how that goes.

The leeks have all been used already, for a soup, and they smell fantastic - so much stronger than the ones you can buy from the supermarket. The kids and my husband have had a flu bug that's taking a long while for them to get over (I seem to have managed to avoid it, thankfully) and none of us have had much of an appetite recently, so there's plenty of veg in the fridge that needs using. A good soup hearty will do us good (even if it looks a bit like cat vomit...).

No comments: