Increasingly my thoughts turn to gardening, which is strange at this time of year because the nights are drawing in and this is when gardening activity slows down. I wonder, not for the first time, if my interest rises in the autumn because there is less to do, and because I am idle at heart.
At times like this I long for an allotment. Why? I was a plot holder once, not too many years ago, and it didn’t work out the way I planned. My plot was too big, too overgrown with brambles and mature trees, too soggy, too shady, and too far away from my house. My mind was with my PhD, and my allotment became just another guilt trip. I moved into this house with its tiny overgrown garden, and that became my focus instead. I relinquished my plot to the ever-growing waiting list.
Several years later, our little garden looks good (or at least good enough), and slowly I learn the patience to be a gardener. Little bits of wisdom drip in from the many library books I read, and sometimes I even remember to re-pot the plants in the mini greenhouse.
I want to make time for more gardening. I love being at the community garden, and learning from the other growers there. I want to grow more food in our own garden – enough for a proper harvest, not just three broad beans one week and a tomato the next. I’ve come to believe there’s enough space here, it just needs me to use it properly.
Today I’ve discovered the Grow Write Guild, a creative writing club for people who love to garden. It’s a series of writing prompts for people writing about their gardens. Because I want to spend more time gardening, and because I tend to make time for what I’m thinking about most, I’m going to join in for a while.
The latest prompt is endings and transitions. Appropriate for me now, as the garden winds down, as I pull out the broad bean plants and finally admit that the tomatoes will not fruit. The leaves are starting to fall from the willow and my garden will again become a garden of sticks. I’m sad that the time of sitting outside is coming to an end.
But in general I do love autumn, and it always feels like a time of new beginnings. I’ve been asking myself what can I do now to make gardening more a part of my life?
There are still practical things to be done in the garden, of course. This weekend I’ve moved the water butt and decided that I can make space for two more.
I’ve ordered some flower seeds to sow in autumn from the wonderful Higgledy Garden, and plan to have our little terrace resplendent with flowers next year. I’ve moved some moth-eaten (well, more slug-eaten) cabbages and kale to give them more room, although I have no idea if they will survive.
Very soon I’ll have a ‘trip to the tip’ day, which will involve taking the bed out of the car, and replacing it with lilac and acer prunings and bits of old fence. I’ll turn the compost, give Peter measurements so he can finally build the potting table he’s been trying to build for months, and order some garlic to plant in November. I’ll buy my new water butts, and possibly even a second mini greenhouse, and I’ll start collecting large containers, ready for spring.
Another thing I can do now is less physical. I can change things in my life so when the garden needs more time, I have more time to give it. I’ve made the decision to give up one of my voluntary commitments after Christmas, and I also won’t be returning to my weekly musical activity in January.
And I can learn. I can put in regular time at the community garden and listen to what the other growers have to say. I can learn how to sow seeds properly, and thin out without damaging seedlings, and what needs harvesting when. I might even be a nice excuse to develop my gardening library.
I’ve been gardening for a while, so this won’t feel like news to some of you. I’ve grown things before, often more by happy accident than design. I’ve thrown my hands in the air and despaired of food growing more times than I care to count. More seedlings have perished at my hands than I would admit. Sometimes knowledge takes a long time to sink in, and I feel like I’ve been observing and absorbing for enough years now to dive in and make a commitment with some chance of success.
So while this season is in some ways an ending, for me it’s also a beginning. This is my declaration that in the coming months I will document my growth as a gardener, my intentions, my actions, my successes and my failures. I won’t promise that my garden will always be tidy, but I will promise that I won’t be embarrassed by it. I won’t promise to grow all of our food, but I will make a good effort to grow plenty. I won’t promise to spend all my spare time in the garden, but I will promise to pop out there several times a week (it is right outside the door, after all), if only to keep a beady eye on the cheeky slug population.
And I promise to write regularly about what I’m doing and what I’ve learned.
If you fancy joining in with the Grow Write Guild, even occasionally, then pop over here and read all about it.