So here I am on the settee, under a blanket, flicking through my ever-increasing pile of books about self sufficiency and growing food. Which feels a little odd really, since I’ve recently decided that I won’t be growing food in our garden this year.
I’ve made this decision before, and changed my mind, but this time is different. This time it’s not the result of grumpy frustration at slug-eaten seedlings and no courgettes. This time it’s the result of a long, well-thought-out process and a lot of planning.
I’ve mentioned my permaculture diploma before, but I don’t think I’ve said too much about it in this space. It’s a course of study, with a tutor, but you get to decide what you learn, and you’re assessed on a portfolio of designs that you submit after several years. One of my first designs is our little garden, and I’ve had much fun drawing base maps and greaseproof paper overlays of the existing features.
I’ve looked at wind direction, sunlight and shade, access points, existing use, and views. I’ve thought a lot about what we want to do in the garden, and what we want to produce, in the context of the permaculture principles.
And I’ve come to the conclusion that our little space is not, for me, the place to grow our main veg crop.
That does rather seem to fly in the face of advice to keep things close to home – ‘the best pest control is a gardener’s shadow’. But while I do love to grow food, the main thing I want from my garden is somewhere to sit, in peace and quiet, without a constant nagging feeling that I ‘should’ be doing something.
I often pop outside to eat lunch when I’m working at home, and I don’t find it restful to be greeted by dead plants, slug trails, and a never-ending feeling of being the scruffiest house in the street.
I know, I know, that what other people think should not concern me. But it does. And I also know that other people probably don’t bat an eyelid, and this is all about me. But I also know that I don’t have much space, and when I spent months nurturing a single courgette plant, and it’s eaten overnight leaving an enormous blank space, that makes me rather sad.
So no more courgettes in the garden. No more attempts at cabbages, or potatoes, or even strawberries (which I’ve only ever eaten a handful of in all the years I’ve been here).
I’ve spent a long time considering an allotment. I used to have one, and gave it back as I couldn’t keep up with the sheer size on my own, and as it was very overgrown when I got it, I never really got it under control. Sometimes I long for the space to grow more, but I know that the responsibility would just nag at me – another ‘should’ in a head that already feels full of them.
But there is now a solution! A kind friend has offered space in his garden for me to grow whatever I like! Someone else grew vegetables there, but has now moved out, and the garden is unused and a little overgrown. I can grow in any part of it, without being responsible for the rest. I can pop in whenever I like, and I don’t have to pay rent like I would with an allotment. There’s a water supply, and a polytunnel, and space for things like leaf mould and a manure heap, which I don’t have space for here. And it’s only 15 minutes walk away!
And so my food growing will mostly be transferred to our friend’s garden this year. No, I won’t be able to see it every day – but my eagle eyes didn’t result in good crops this year anyway. Yes, I’ll have to traipse up and down the hill whenever I want to visit – but there’s space to store tools there and I can always have a nice cup of tea when I arrive. The ground is good, and (most importantly for me) it’s not overlooked.
I just need to wait for the snow to clear so I can get my garlic planted now!