organic gardening

a happy interruption

The last thing you need when you’re up against a deadline and you feel like there will never, ever be enough hours in the day is an interruption.

Unless it’s an interruption like this.

Sixty weeny but perfect plugs of organic salad plants.

The instructions said to plant straight away.  The autumn sun was shining in the garden, there was fresh compost waiting to go in the raised beds – how could I refuse?

Well, I could have argued that this semester’s module in Victorian Literature is eating up all my time. Dickens, Gaskell, Eliot – I love you all but why did you have to write such long books?

Or I could have protested that I was behind on a major writing project that is currently earning me about sixpence halfpenny an hour and needs to be sorted out if the Dobson family is going to eat next year.

Nope, none of this was worth the sacrifice of these gorgeous little promises of winter greenery. In just an hour or so I had cleared the miserable looking courgettes (oh 2012, what a dreadful growing season you were) and the overgrown rocket, dug in the latest lot of crumbly, chocolatey compost from our bin and planted everything out.

Now we can look forward to winter purslane, corn salad, land cress and wild rocket to cheer up our winter meals. There were also two varieties of lettuce – ‘Winter Density’ and ‘Arctic King’ – that I am assured will be able to cope with the worst of the Sheffield snow, although I might tuck them up in a bit of fleece if it looks like being particularly harsh.

It’s amazing what an hour of sun and soil can do for one’s energy levels. Last week the new economics foundation recommended that we should all work shorter hours and spend the extra time in the garden. Judging from my experience today, if we took their advice we might actually end up being more productive, not less. Not to mention healthier and better equipped to cope with soaring food prices.

Incidentally, my plugs came from Organic Plants. I’ve not used them before but so far the service has been brilliant.

a (proper) tribute to my mum

It took me ages to find a decent Mothers’ Day card this year. First of all, I boycotted anything that was pink. My mother is not Barbie, nor does she wish to be. Then, pedant that I am, I had to eliminate anything with the apostrophe in the wrong place. (It goes after the ‘s’. This is not a day for one mother alone.) Then I had to pass over anything featuring high-heeled shoes, glittery hearts or ‘jokes’ about mothers lying in the garden while the men in the house burn the dinner. Seriously, in 2012 do we really still believe that men will starve if women are not in the kitchen?

Anyone know a woman whose favourite thing is popping kittens into flowerpots?

I’m sorry, Mum, but as you will know by now, the best I could find was a picture of a rather anodyne bunch of flowers. So by way of compensation, this blog post is for you. There are many things I can thank you for but I can honestly say that one of the most important is compost. Other people might laugh at this, but I know you will understand my appreciation.

You see, my mum has always been way ahead of her time. She was an environmentalist probably before the word was even invented. She has been gardening organically forever, certainly years and years before it was trendy. What she doesn’t know about comfrey and wormeries and rotation planting probably isn’t worth knowing.

But in the end the most important thing is compost. I honestly cannot remember a time when I did not know the difference between what went in the compost bin and what didn’t. Thanks to my mum, my sister and I are physically incapable of putting even a sliver of potato peel in a regular bin.  And thanks to my mum passing on her skills in this way, I am currently gardening quite successfully on heavy clay, made fertile and productive through the addition of copious quantities of home-produced compost.

Clematis 'Niobe' in our front garden last year. It has oodles of compost around its roots.

Another thing my mum was brilliant at was reading us stories, especially fantasy and fairy tales. But as you grow up, you have to leave that kind of magic behind. All the more reason to be grateful for compost then. Because no matter how often I see it, I will never grow tired of the magic that ensures that this

becomes this

Texture of chocolate cake - perfect!

which helps this

end up as this.

And of course then the whole cycle begins again. I can’t remember what those baby beets became in the kitchen, but I can guarantee that the peel and the roots went in the compost bin.

Thanks, Mum! Have a great day.

For anyone who needs them, there are some good instructions for making compost here.