Catching up with May – why I never garden on a schedule

May lilac

This spring has been pretty polarised so far this year – bitterly cold days and a couple of mini heatwaves have created tumultuous conditions, and at times it felt like we didn’t know whether spring was coming or going. Finally, May seems to have settled into itself, and the beautiful blue skies of late spring have shifted the growing season into a new gear. 

I don’t tend to sow my seeds on time; I’m usually late due to too much distraction from life, from work, and from all the things in between. But it’s OK I think… I used to be so fixated on Doing The Right Thing at the Right Time and when I didn’t, I was a failure. My hobby and passion turned into a string of failures and I would often document on this blog how I was doing everything wrong, always behind, never achieving what I needed to achieve. I have a different mindset now. 

If you look at the natural world, it’s pretty fluid. I feel that my sowing and growing schedules can be fluid too. Had I got going early in the season and sown everything in sight, I think I would have faced a few problems with the unseasonally cold temperatures and late frosts. I don’t think I would be much more further ahead right now. But now I have a sense of everything around me really jumping into life and growing steadily. I’m not much of a “measurer” or someone who is really into following details, so I tend to be quite intuitive and go by feeling rather than thinking. That’s why I’m happy to sow, plant and harvest as and when I *feel* it’s the right time. 

May has got to be one of my favourite months; there is a real energy, an abundance of fresh, tender, green growth everywhere – a natural, zesty hue that is so hard to replicate – that contrasts perfectly against an early summer porcelain blue sky. Flowers and blossom are putting on a showstopper, and there’s just so much good to come. There is still enough freshness in the air that is so often absent in the heady, more humid months of July and August, yet enough warmth in the sun (when it’s out) that it feels almost medicinal. 

Cambrige Favourite Strawberry Flowers

I think, on reflection, that over the years I’ve started to trust my own instincts, when it comes to garden and growing. I’ve learned to listen to nature and not necessarily rigid instructions. This has been borne out of my inability to do anything “on time”, and more recently, my inability to find any time. But you know what? There is always some time, it may not be a perfect time, but it’s a moment, an opportunity and… let’s just take these moments as they come. 

To start the season off I’ve sown some flower seeds, including cosmos and gaura, for the next season on our mini flower farm. The salad leaves are in, the carrots sown directly, peas are scrambling away and the strawberries… well, I think this year is going to be a bumper year for strawberries! I’m enjoying just taking my growing at my own pace, and seeing how it all unfolds… 

Post-Bank Holiday Blues

A sunny Sunday

August Bank Holidays in August are supposed to be damp and full of broken promises. But for E’s first birthday – which fell on the bank holiday weekend – it was hot, the skies were dry, and at times, even fine. We couldn’t have asked for much better, really.

We celebrated her birthday just with family; Rich sweated over the BBQ and I ran backwards and forwards with trays of food and drinks. E played happily with her aunties, uncles and grandparents, unawares that it was her special day of course, but thoroughly enjoying herself. It was the first time we’ve really shared our garden with family for a celebration, and although the garden isn’t picture perfect, it was good to invite people round and say “come and celebrate with us.” I finally feel confident enough to open the garden gate to other people, as we’ve worked hard to do many of the clear-up jobs that had been on the To Do list for years. It’s starting to feel like the garden I knew it could always be. My little slice of the good life.

For a week before E’s birthday, we used every available spare hour to rid the garden of years of accumulated guff – neat(ish) piles of wood, old broken chairs and benches, frost-damaged pots and seed trays, broken bricks and paving, old runs and fence panels – as well as tackling some of the denser, weedier patches of scrub and cutting the hedges back down to an acceptable height. It was tough to get it all done, but so worth it. I now feel we have so much more workable space, which allows me to concentrate on planting schemes this coming Autumn and Spring.

But after the bank holiday celebrations, and the initial satisfaction of a job well done, I’m starting to feel a little blue. It’s this feeling of only just getting by; treading water, getting from one day to the next without any solid progress that’s returned. It’s a bit ridiculous as we have made SO much progress in the garden, and the house too (after about 10 years, I finally have a full kitchen floor down, a kitchen table back in its rightful place, and four matching kitchen chairs). The house feels a little less like a renovation site and a little more like the home it once was. I think these blues are stemming from general feelings of insecurity and not feeling in control of my finances. The “treading water” is financial too; I don’t think I’ll ever feel free and settled until I have it sorted. And that is going to take a heck of a lot of hard work too.

I have to keep reminding myself that it’s up to me. We’ve already proven that if we set our minds to a task, we can achieve good things. It’ll never be easy, but I need to stop sinking and start believing my goals are actually achievable.

 

 

Back to School… Almost

Leeks planted in the potager in August

Well here we are in mid August and it’s been a busy one for me. Just over a week ago I returned to work after maternity leave and have been getting back into the swing of working life, albeit in a very reduced capacity (next month’s pay cheque will be interesting,  as I readjust to getting by on less than half the hours I was on before. Childcare costs are just so prohibitive… life is expensive yada yada…). Mum has been recovering well after major surgery but still needs help around the house for simple but more labour-intensive tasks – and is still waiting to be able to drive again – and we’re currently in the throes of finally laying down the last of the flooring in the kitchen and utility room. It’s only been 11 years since I ripped up the old flooring and 2 years since we bought all the replacement flooring…

I think we will have to actually go out and buy some celebratory fizz once the last piece of flooring is in place. Seriously.

As predicted, I’ve lost my not-so-firm grip on all things horticultural and agricultural. We were subjected to a fortnight of deluge after deluge, and with all the aforementioned distractions, I’ve had to watch from the sidelines as the grass grows out of control, the hedges explode, the borders go over and the bindweed swamps and romps away.

But if motherhood as taught me anything, it’s the art of ‘f**k it, let’s just get on it now whilst we have the chance’. So one afternoon as E took her afternoon nap, I leapt into action.

My plot is small, but it’s enough to keep me busy for now. Out came the garlic, which was distributed on drying racks before it goes into storage. I mulched with a generous layer of organic compost before setting my new Musselburgh leeks into place. They’ll hopefully be big enough to harvest over the winter, when steaming bowls of homemade leek and potato soup will keep our bellies warm and full.

I worked quickly, and weeded and heavily mulched a small strip of the plot that had been unoccupied so far this year, and threw in a few seed potatoes that had been soaking up the sun on my kitchen windowsill since about January. I’ve been told on good authority that it’s still fine to get potatoes growing now… maybe we’ll have some fine freshly dug spuds ready for roasting at Christmas?

Lastly, I’ve managed to start thinning out my wonky rows of Autumn King carrots, which have been thriving alongside my nasturtiums, chives and shallots. And what a delight… the baby and I both enjoyed freshly cooked baby carrots for dinner that night. Already bursting with flavour, they’ll be ripe for pulling for the table from September.

I won’t lie; I’ve been having a really tough time recently, probably mostly self-perpetuated but nevertheless it’s left me feeling like I’m struggling to tread water. The garden has helped me get back on more of an even keel. I’m very much aware of still how much I need this in my life – the pottering, the planting, the harvesting. Perspective.