As we roll over into the new year and the days start to get that little bit longer, my thoughts turn to my plans for the vegetable garden. To the seeds, cuttings, trees and perennial plants that connect me to the soil and that will (fingers crossed) provide us with a tasty and nourishing harvest for much of the next twelve months.
I’ll be honest and admit that I’ve not always demonstrated the required level of focus to see things through the year. I have a tendency to get hugely enthusiastic in the seed-sowing phase, to remain moderately committed during the growing phase, and then to let my eye slip from the ball in the tending, harvesting and eating phases.
And so I have, this year, committed myself to thinking carefully about what I grow, to tending to my seedlings and plants throughout their growth cycle, and to cultivating them for a tasty and prolific harvest. My aim is to be as self-sufficient as possible in the fruit and vegetables that we like to eat and, for the things we don’t eat directly from the garden, to preserve them for future consumption.
We’ll have things like potatoes, carrots, beetroot, turnips and swede. We’ll have courgettes (but not too many!) and squash (they store really well), peas and beans (for drying). We’ll have chillis and tomatoes in the greenhouse. We’ll have herbs in pots (I’m keen to make my own herbal teas). And we’ll have a range of different salad leaves and spinach. I’m also going to try growing root chicory, for use as a coffee substitute.
In addition to creating a plan for what I want to grow and how it’ll all fit into the garden, I’ve though carefully about how I’ll maintain focus on tending to things throughout the year. This means learning to think about myself as a grower, just as I already think about myself as a writer and as a consultant, so that when things get busy the garden doesn’t fall off my radar.
It also strikes me that, the more of our daily food needs we can meet from our own garden, the less we’ll need to spend on produce from the supermarket. It’s also my experience that things we’ve grown in the garden are invariably way tastier than anything that our local supermarket has to offer. Plus we can grow things that you can’t even get in the supermarket.
Furthermore, given the supply-chain disruptions supermarkets have experienced in recent months, having a food source right outside the back door – together with a store of dried and preserved produce – sounds like a sensible hedge should such things become a regular occurrence. (This is a theme to which I shall return in a future blog post.)
Also, growing things is fun. In previous years, I’ve struggled to find the time to keep on top of things vegetable-wise. Or, at least, I’ve chosen to spend my time doing other things. Which is a bit daft really, as getting out into the garden and tending the plants or doing maintenance chores brings me almost unbelievable levels of joy and happiness, of connectedness with this time and this place.
And with everything that’s going on around us, this sense of connectedness is something that we could all do with right now. Something that links us to the soil and, through it, to the natural world of which we form a part. Something that, no matter how hard things get, reminds us that nature is all about sowing the seeds of growth. And that gives us the opportunity to do the same.