Saturday, 5 November 2011

Gardening on the edge

I haven't done a gardening post for ages, mainly because I haven't done any gardening. That is not to say my world has been entirely garden-free. I do like watching gardening programmes, and I do like the gardening articles in the weekend press.  They show an ordered and productive world which I wish was mine. All those lovely neat rows of vegetables, and pruned and cared for herbaceous borders.

When we first moved here 12 years ago, I had masses of time. I worked three days a week for what then was a pretty fair sum of money, and the other two days were mine to do as my daughter and I wished. She was young and eager then, so we did a lot together, and we did a lot of gardening. The pride and joy of my life was my vegetable garden, carved out of what used to be a dog yard.  It was just like all those ones you see on television programmes. When I put my fork in to dig out my potatoes, it was a profoundly satisfying time: masses of them. Just masses.

Life is no longer as it was 12 years ago.  I now work for a lot less than the minimum wage as a bookdealer, and although I've been commissioned to write a book, it is not going to make me shedloads of money. My daughter is not, these days, much of a help in the garden. The garden now is simply a transit area between the house and her next social engagement.

I do still garden. Growing our own is now a vital part of keeping going. Growing your own though, as the gardening programmes and books would have you do it, takes shedloads of time. In order to keep my not quite minimum wage going, and write aforesaid book, I need time, and the garden therefore doesn't get it. I can't say that I've worked out an ideal solution to this, because I haven't, but I have sort of got one.

A while back my sister and her other half came to visit, and I took them for a wander through the nettles to see my onions and garlic, which meant a dodge through the parsnip forest. Tim looked at the forest and said, "Gardening on the edge is what you do, isn't it?"



Well, yes it is. Gardening the way I have to do it is a combination of doing as little as you possibly can, and working with what you've got. It is being relentlessly opportunist and putting up with things that are less than ideal.  I did hope that maybe there were other gardeners out there who also gardened on the edge, but when I googled, to the proper gardener, gardening on the edge appears to be making a success out of a hostile growing environment (which I suppose is what I do, in a way, only the hostile bit is me), or growing plants that aren't really suited to your climate.

I am hoping that there actually are other gardeners out there like me: doing everything really rather badly but somehow managing to produce something at the end of it. It would be lovely to share experiences.

I won't do an incredibly regular series of blogs on this subject, for the reasons above, but I think I can manage to do one on the gardening on the edge approach to winter salad within the next couple of days.

8 comments:

Christina Wilsdon said...

Count me in as one of your gardeners on the edge, and definitely not in the growing-horticultural-wonders-on-a-knife-blade type of edge. Bare minimum of time available, less energy each year, no help from offspring, dog burying rawhide bones in garden, soggy 3-inch layer of leaves all over yard right now...it's a wonder I grow anything.

Anyway I think you've got your next book title well in hand there--Gardening on the Edge, or, Scrambling Through the Parsnip Forest...

Fiona said...

I have just had to give up my allotment as I just hadn't time to work & do my own professional practice as an artist as well as all those boring & essential extras such as shopping & cleaning.
I am sorry, but unfortunately gardens take up so much of one's time. good luck with the onions, are you doing shallots as well?

GentleOtter said...

Another gardener on the edge here.

We had a fairly sun free and wet summer so I became wildly overexcited with our harvest of spring onions grown in an old fish box, ignored the nettles and thistles which grew to jungle size, bald roses which knocked on the window asking to be pruned...

I think we should encourage those 'guerilla gardeners' who swoop and transform wild areas.
Big sign in our gardens saying 'find the hollyhocks and win some tea'.

Jane Badger said...

Christina - Scrambling Through the Parsnip Forest definitely has possibilities.... I also have masses of leaves, and a dog who likes to bury.

GentleOtter - well done with the spring onions. Do you ever eat your nettles? I always think I ought to; we have so many. An appeal to guerilla gardeners has a distinct appeal (always providing I could get them in in the first place.)

Jane Badger said...

Fiona, I am sorry you've had to give up your allotment. That must have been a blow. No, I'm not doing shallots as well - I'm weeks late getting the onions in, and don't have any weed free space to put shallots in!

susannaforrest said...

I'm all about wild, ill-informed experiments that result either in disaster or serendipity.

susannaforrest said...

... and while I don't get dogs burying bones in my balcony plant pots, I do get crows burying peanuts.

Jane Badger said...

If the peanuts sprout, that really is gardening on the edge.