I’m one of the many people who has been gradually giving home and garden a glow-up while COVID-19 does weird things to the shape and content of our lives. Those are my brassicas, being shielded from the attentions of Cabbage White butterflies (there’s a Sacrificial Broccoli elsewhere for them to feast upon, don’t worry).
It’s not a new journey for me, the growing of things and the honing of home, although it is, perhaps, one to which I haven’t typically given quite such frequent attention. It feels more like a coming home, though.
I was fortunate enough to grow up with parents who grew a good chunk of the fruit and veg we ate, and I dug out and created herb and veg patches in a previous house, too, so while this year has seen the energy go that way, these are plans I already had. I doubt I’ll take on an allotment – I’ve a feeling that that would be too much of a time and volume commitment for the vast majority of a normal year – but I do get a huge amount from growing things on even a small scale.
It’s not about eventually ending up with sprouts, broccoli, squash and courgette, though.
It’s about connecting with the earth and with the food that I eat more closely. There’s no berry sweeter than the one you grew yourself and picked a moment ago, and there’s no shorter food mileage, too. You can’t get closer to the land than when you’ve got a good chunk of it in your fingernails and you’re figuring out what grows well in your little corner of it.
It’s about nurturing something. Trying things and seeing what works. Being patient and putting in consistent effort rather than seeking quick results. In growing as in fitness, there’s no shortcut that’s worth the taking. You can force things a little bit, extend the growing season a touch, grow under glass if your climate isn’t quite right for things, maybe. But you can’t really shuffle nature’s timetable all that much, and you have to go to considerable effort to grow things that aren’t cool with your climate and soil. Plants have preferences of climate, soil, light, water levels and so on, and they grow in their own time. Keep an eye on them, tend them, and if something isn’t working, try a different thing.
It’s about going with the flow. So much of gardening is entirely down to something you can’t control: the weather. You have to let go of the specifics – you can’t decide in April that you want to harvest x amount of y produce in August and have that happen. You can look at what you enjoy eating and what grows well in your soil, light conditions, and area, and give it a reasonable go. But you can’t do much about an unexpected late frost, or a particularly dry May, or an especially wet June, and they’ll all affect your plants. So, growing things is a continual lesson in accepting what you can’t change, adjusting course if necessary, being philosophical if things don’t turn out quite as you hoped, and having the resilience to try again.
And then there’s the ‘what the heck is behind that?’ stuff. Sometimes, you try it by the book, by a different book, by a YouTube channel, and by feel and you still just can’t get a particular plant to grow. Ain’t happening. Your neighbour can, but you? That thing is noping out of wherever you put it. Never mind, there are thousands of others that you can try, and your neighbour is probably wondering how come your rosemary looks so enthusiastic when theirs doesn’t.
Let it go, and focus on what you can actually help to thrive – because that’s where you can thrive, too.