Our family has many traditions. Pyjamas at Christmas, forgetting anniversaries and tearing-up of lottery tickets each week. My favourite tradition of the year, and also the last, however, is the ordering of seeds on New Years Eve.
Armed with seed catalogues (marked like a Radio Times before Netflix was dreamt of), spreadsheet open, glass of rum in hand and grand plans in my head (getting bigger with each glass) I place order after order. In the first few years I stuck to the big suppliers but in the last two years my tastes have become more eclectic. Seeking out the specialist for that elusive seed type or village show favourite.
I cannot lie I still get the majority from one or two big names – they have never let me down – but I look most excitedly towards receiving that order from the little retailer, the one seed type supplier. The Soul Brother record shop vs HMV.
Every seed supplier in the UK is probably an independent but the hunt for that rare seed type reminds me of my younger days when I roamed record shops for that elusive indie LP or import. In a dream world, you will be able to go into seed shops like the record shops of my youth and flick through seed packets. Asking the assistants if they have got that latest tomato seeds or any new releases from Sea Spring.
Anyway my glass is nearly empty so wishing you a happy New Year, a great 2018 and may all your seeds grow strong and healthy.
Sowing seeds in the Spring sun. There is something about the first sustained Spring sunshine which you can take advantage of, not trapped behind a desk admiring it from a distance but standing free amongst it. Seed compost, seeds, pots, potting bench and starting something new – the best parts of Spring.
The positive mental effects of gardening are well publicised but the flip-side of having a passion for gardening which is sustained in the dark days where activities are limited is hard on the soul. I think the dormant seasons, where sunlight hours are few and far between, affect gardeners more as they are finely attuned to the wonders of what can happen when the sun comes out.
Today was a day of sun and being out. The morning was spent sowing seeds into pots and trays, lunch lying on the grass eating sandwiches in front of the tulips (our mini version of Keukenhof) , afternoon sowing carrots as the next stage of Experiment 17.1, tending to the garlic, onion and shallots, removing brambles which had spread while we were looking the other way and removing the horticultural crimes of the previous owner of the plot.
Today was a day of sun and being out. The day before the timekeepers artificially give us a day of sun. A spring day of sowing, sun and sandwiches. Spring is special. Every day is special but the dark days of Winter make the light days of Spring extraordinary.
If you believe what you read, though several people at the moment urge you not to, now is the time to pot up your dahlia tubers.
This morning, six tubers arrived from Sarah Raven’s online shop (three each of Karma Choc and Cafe au Lait). I then read Sarah Raven’s section on Dahlias in The Bold and Brilliant Garden at the library (never forget that libraries gave us power), watched Sarah Raven’s video on potting tubers while actually potting the tubers up in the bathtub. Finally, I watered the tubers using an old tonic water bottle and a bottle top waterer purchased last year (the bottle top not the tonic water) from . . . you guessed it . . . Sarah Raven’s online shop. Therefore, It is hard to argue with C. that Sarah is not becoming the third person in our marriage.
However, other than the advice I gathered from Sarah, in her many forms, what I takeaway from it is how a passion for growing plants and / or vegetables engenders a passion for not only trying to do things right but also a passion for improvisation and making things work whatever the circumstances. Heath Robinson contraptions which would never appear in a RHS publication become perfectly reasonable approaches to problems faced in the mind of an intrepid gardener. A potting bench is replaced by the bathtub, a long flower bench in a polytunnel is replaced by a plank of wood across two Ikea chairs in front of the window. Gardening has such a power that it makes you get round problems and not give up when the ideal scenario is not in front of you.
The bottle top waterer is a way that suppliers are helping the space deprived modern gardener. The bottle top waterer is becoming an indispensable piece of kit for me as more indoor space is taken up by assorted pots, trays and propagators. If I keep the watering can indoors it is only another thing to trip over. The old plastic bottle with waterer top has become such a go to that if I went to a garden centre and were shown to the watering cans I’d be surprised not to see a range of old plastic bottles taken out of the recycling bin.
Gardening has the power to change not only your mind but how you approach the everyday. I hope Sarah agrees.
The first year the allotment was an escape from the horror of my workplace, a coping mechanism for me as I tried to handle the deteriorating health and eventual death of my father, a social network platform as we arrived in a new village and a shared activity for my wife and myself as we worked together to build, grow and develop something afresh.