One morning, early in 2012, my then husband asked me whether I could be happy without a garden. I said I didn’t think so. By the beginning of May that year he had left – he moved in to a rented house in Cornwall that (somewhat ironically) has a garden. In the intervening four years, I have actually never been without a garden, although when I was a student in Kent I was a long way away from it. But I never felt like gardening, which amounts to the same thing.
Last spring, when Ryan and I started work on our new garden, I felt a resurgence of my gardening mojo, but it died a death as the process of creation wore on. There was plenty of work to be done in the garden, but there was nowhere to do any real gardening. I couldn’t play with my plants, I could only keep them alive, moving them from pillar to post as they were increasingly in the way.
With the wet start to this year, it felt like we would never get out there and get anything done, but last weekend we finished building the raised beds. There’s still plenty of work to be done outside, but it suddenly felt as though we’d broken the back of it. It has taken a long time, and it has been hard work, and I am grateful to Ryan and his dad for their tireless help.
This garden is designed to weather the ups and downs of life, even when I don’t. Gardening in raised beds concentrates the gardener’s effort where it’s most needed. There won’t be a lot of weeding to do, and the deep beds means the plants in them won’t need watering as often. If life outside the garden prevents me from spending enough time in it, then I can ‘close down’ some of the raised beds – planting them with low maintenance flowers for a season, seeding them with green manures or simply covering them in plastic – until things improve. There won’t be any more depressing winter mud to contend with. I can spend my time in the garden doing things I enjoy doing, whether it’s pottering with my plants or sitting around the BBQ.
Ryan was working yesterday, and whilst he was out, I finished filling the empty beds. They’re currently covered in black plastic, weighed down by plants in pots, but they’re finished and they are ready and waiting for when my seedlings and plants are ready to be planted. For the first time in more years than I care to remember, I can start the gardening year knowing that (barring force majeure) I will be able to see these plants through their lifecycle and actually eat the harvest. Yesterday we ate the first leaves of the giant (perennial) sea beet that has taken over one of my beds (which is 1.2m x 1.2m, to give you an idea of the size of it!). It was surprisingly delicious, and I mean really surprising. I wasn’t expecting more than a mouthful of something spinachy, and it stopped me in my tracks. I’ll have to make it again and take some photos so I can share the recipe with you 🙂
When I decided to write this post, yesterday morning, I wanted to go outside and take a picture of the filled raised beds. I decided to take my camera, rather than use my phone, and it was such a lovely morning that I stopped to take more photos – the ones peppering this post. And then I spotted some grass weeds in amongst the wild garlic (a remnant of their sojourn on the allotment!) and I stopped to pull them out. I took a few moments to ferry some seedlings out to harden off, and watered a few pots. I came inside with dirty fingers.
That, for me, is gardening.
For the first time in years, I have a garden. I am a gardener, and it means the world to me.