Aaaaanyway. Last year, it had already been Autumn for about eleven months by this time. My garden yielded little except Jerusalem artichokes and leeks, a few courgettes and several dozen small green tomatoes. This year has been only moderately more successful in growing terms really, giving the lie to the theory that last years failures were mainly down to the weather. So I'm left to draw one of two conclusions: a) that someone has put a curse on me. Who knows who's nose I might have put even more out of joint down Whitestone Village Fete for taking home the much coveted life-size Daniel O'Donnell corn-dolly by correctly guessing the weight of the vicar's gallstone, especially after also bagging the star prize of a luxe gingham housecoat in the meat bingo, the mediterranean style meatballs onto which the drawn numbers were seared also forming part of the prize. Have you ever tried to use a chubby dabber on a frozen tenderised sirloin steak? It's no cakewalk, trust me. I won that house coat fair and square, but by God the looks I got as I swept from the gazebo, my spoils draped around my shoulders like a prizefighter's gown, pockets stuffed with three pounds of partly cooked ground beef, well, if looks could kill I'd have been divided up pronto between the runners up. So anyway, it's that or the frankly ridiculous notion that b) I am a rubbish and frighteningly lazy gardener.
I mean really, come on. My reputation precedes me. I have lost count of the number of times that people stop me in the street and ask, "Sarah, where do you find inspiration for your unique gardening style?" Well alright, it was one bloke and the words came out as "do you know your front bumper's hanging off?" but it was clear what he meant really. And the answer I gave him I will share with you now, dear reader, though at the time it came out as "yes, I know. What of it, fishface?"
Over the Summer I fled upon a mercy mission to my home town of Harrogate to replenish my mum's collection of Harrogate-themed carrier bags, some of which she has had to resort to gaffer taping in order to keep them serviceable into their second (or in some cases third) decade of use. Harrogate, with its town's motto, arx celebris fontibus (roughly translated as 'fur coat and no knickers') is entirely populated by Kim Tate replicants with W-A-I-T R-O-S-E tattooed across their knuckles. And my dad.
Astonishingly, this is not actually a National Garden Show gold medal award winning themed garden (title: "Hercules is Under Here Somewhere") but my dad's back garden, a place in which I have spent many happy hours, mainly trying to disentangle my clothing from giant spokes or working out how to navigate a path entirely full of stacked crates full of springs with a pushchair. I love the playful use of the sun umbrella to shade the collection of rusty locks and a box full of ceased up obsolete switches, its blue picked up subtly by the ubiquitous plastic sheeting covering up sixteen wheels and half a Bullnose Morris chassis, the shelves turned on their side both resonant of the slats of the junk strewn bench and a witty nod to the municipal tip. The foliage, resplendent and unashamedly untrammelled, a feature which continues through to the front garden via the garage door and out through the downstairs toilet window. With a gardening heritage like this, how could I fail to grow anything, so long as it's not useful, productive or indeed, attractive?
I suppose I'm exaggerating a bit. If my main aim is to have an entirely self sufficient garden then I have failed miserably, but I'm beginning to realise that if that ever was my goal, it's a tad unrealistic. Largely because I'm a lazy, rubbish gardener, but also because I have too much to do elsewhere. Screeching maws to fill, water troughs to freshen, beds to muck out, and when I've done with Jamie and the kids (a ho ho) there are the animals to sort out who make it their business whether they realise it or not (HINT: they don't) to constantly throw new and interesting not to mention hair-tearingly infuriating challenges in our direction. Escapeology. Mystery ailments. Egg concealment. Being murdered by foxes. Constantly shifting living arrangements.
|Oh, bollocks. (Not pictured)|
But despite all this the garden has become a lovely place to be. Most of the big diggy overhaul bit was done last year, so I haven't had to do too much hard labour this year, except create a big extended bed for my potatoes, which actually grew and worked and tasted very nice and continue to do so. I have grown more cucumbers than anyone respectable should have access to (I have fortunately found a more than respectable use for them in Alys Fowler's fantastic recipe for courgette pickle from her book Abundance which is not only full of splendid ideas for storing food but also opens flat onto a kitchen surface without being weighed down by two bags of sugar / pheasants / large Toblerones etc and for this alone deserves to win the Booker prize) and also two actual aubergines. That's two. Aubergines.
I have had varyingly respectable turn-outs of tomatoes, broad beans, garlic, spring onions and shallots. My brassicas got scoffed despite being netted but are limping on and the courgettes and squashes are frankly rubbish (all plant, very few fruits). The lettuces bolted, as did my rocket, radishes and coriander. I finally produced a small beetroot (three in fact) and am awaiting my celeriac and my celery. All in all very middling, and I don't think the Abundance book will be getting much of a hammering this season but it's been so much more enjoyable than last year. It has also looked much nicer, partly because everything looks better lit by sunshine as opposed to a big glowering cloud of drizzle, but also because I have been growing flowers. I didn't really have any room for them but did it anyway (which isn't like me at all. Oh hang on yes it is.) Accordingly they were kind of shoved anywhere and everywhere, round the edges, in between vegetables. If a crop failed to germinate I would pop a few flowers in there instead. I probably crammed them in a bit (which isn't like me at all. Oh hang on, yes it is), and left them in their too small seed trays for far too long (which isn't like me... oh you get the idea), but in the end they were a roaring success, except the Bells of Ireland which weren't.
I got the seeds from Higgledy Garden who specialise in cut flower seeds, but even though I picked a few and stuck em in vases / jars / bottles I got much more out of the ones I left in the garden. They really made the place come alive and all the creepy crawlies were well into them too which is good, apparently, unless you're an aphid but then we don't care much for your sort. June, my Seedy Penpal this time round is a flower grower so she sent me a fantastic assortment of flower seeds which will be very handy for next year along with an equally generous selection of vegetable seeds. Her beautifully illustrated proper gardening blog can be found here.
|Some seeds, yesterday|
|Some seeds, tomorrow|