So, we’ve learned a lot. Gardening books, it turns out, are just the slightly more practical wing of the grand conspiracy to make us believe we can have it all, with minimal effort and it’s all just fabulous. Being a parent, I’ve found, is an intensive course in understanding you can’t have it all, and that you need to choose carefully what you want and how hard you’re prepared to work for it.
More specifically on gardening and in no particular order here’s some of the things I’ve learned.
Growing things from seed is often quite hard. My basil seedlings got the kind of care and attention most people reserve for their pets or children. For insurance I also bought some of those supermarket pots of basil and repotted them. Two months later my seedlings were leggy, wan, unappetising specimens, completely untouched for fear of finishing them off. In contrast the supermarket ones are robust, productive and flavoursome.
Things you can pick and eat are the most fun. We’ve had a couple of sunbaked afternoons with the children, picking our way through fresh peas, tayberries and dessert gooseberries. This is what we got a garden for: the unplanned, serendipitous moment, bonding round a shared discovery; an experience we don’t get anywhere else. This to me is holiday, distilled into a tiny moment. (A friend once called having children ‘an adventure in your own living room’ – accordingly, sometimes our garden is a kind of expedition.)
Sorrel, romanesco, sweetcorn: no. Same goes for runner beans in pots, courgettes in manure (why should that be?) and lettuces anywhere not shaded.
But most promising of all are the perennials. These have barely given this year, but what I love about them is they take care of themselves. I don’t have time to coddle a seedling, or rush home to chase birds from delicate leaves. The artichokes, gooseberries and apples can look after themselves. Here’s hoping they will get more productive as they establish.
We’ve downsized our organic box to keep up with the garden. Here’s the Sunday lunch we had the other day (minus the potatoes, which we also grew). It moved Josie to ask if the chicken also came from our garden: