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As some of you may remember, last spring/summer saw my very first foray into growing vegetables.  I had very humble results, and learned more from my mistakes than my successes, the principle lesson being in never underestimating the destructive power of slugs (those little dudes have got evil appetites for anything growing). 

This year I’ve been aiming to expand my repertoire a little.  So far we have 3 potato planters at various stages of sprouting; a blueberry bush planted last year looking promising for our first crop later this year; strawberry plants in a container currently flowering away; another container beginning to show the first seedlings of rocket; some overwintering onions getting up to speed if they can survive the attention of wood pigeons; beetroot seed planted but still thinking about germination; chives, mint, parsley, oregano, sage all getting going in the herb corner of the garden; various kinds of salad leaves and lettuces recently planted hopefully in an old stone sink… and in the house, courgette plants and seeds, tomato seedlings, pea shoots, basil, rosemary (bit dubious about this, managed to grow miniature mushrooms last year when I tried to cultivate rosemary but hey, can’t hurt to try and figure out where I’m going wrong).  I’ve tried not to plant anything we are unlikely to either eat/use or share, and also have plans once the weather is a bit more consistently frost -free to plant carrots, spring onions, perhaps a few brassicas, maybe sweetcorn. 

It’s exciting and ridiculously rewarding to watch tiny shoots emerge from the soil, stretching towards the sun and often seeming to grow so fast you can practically hear the squeak of stems.  I have discovered I like to get my fingers muddy (although the inadvertent touching of a slug or other unappealing beastie does induce a tendency to retch – I was never a big fan of mini-beasts, even as a child), and find it satisfying to work earth towards a fine tilth.  Actually this last one is more of a dream than a reality.  Unnurtured, our garden’s soil is a heavy clay pan, so dense I could probably spend my time better setting up a kiln and fashioning rustic pots out of the clay.  Thank goodness for the wonders of compost, raised beds and container gardening.

Anyway, all this is by way of a heads up.  Coming soon, no doubt, will be lots of rants about the pestilences inflicting themselves on my veggies, pleas for anti-slug measures and eventually some self-satisfied pictures of my first harvests of the year.  I’m so excited!

On Sunday our pastor preached an awesome sermon.  But isn’t it funny the things that stick in your mind afterwards?…

“You can’t hurry a tomato”

Seldom has a truer word been spoken!  In the context of the sermon our pastor was basically exhorting us to live life richly, to ‘dwell’ where we are wholeheartedly.  And that one little phrase really stuck out, and came back to me again today as I was pottering about the house (got some horrible bug so have been off work for a couple of days, and am sad to note I seem to be getting worse rather than better at the time of writing.  Sigh.) and I spent a few moments admiring our daughter’s flourishing tomato seedlings that she planted just a few weeks ago at Sunday Club. 

I’m mentally planning which seeds need to be sown in our vegetable patch this year, and am already anticpating the long and (im)patient wait for the first bursts of life.  I’m a very very VERY novice gardener and had more failures than successes last year, but I enjoy the fact that so much of gardening seems to involve patience and trust.  Trust in the seeds to germinate and ultimately bear fruit, trust in the soil and the sun and the rain to each play their part.  And the long tormenting journey from seed planting to final harvest.  The torment and the joy is in the waiting of course.

There are profound and deeply resonant lessons to be learnt through planting a seed…

I have a confession to make.  I’m a heartless slug murderer.  Actually I think I might have confessed to this previously, but today I got serious and did the thing I said I’d never do.  I bought slug pellets.

In mitigation, they are (apparently) organic, not harmful to children or animals (unless you’re a slug) and can be used around both edible and non-edible plants.  But I have to admit, I feel really bad about this. 

Still, the slugs were eating all my carefully nurtured vegetables, so much so that whole plantings of seedlings have gone.  Because of slugs I have no lettuces, no carrots, only 3 beetroot (and they aren’t looking too hot), no salad leaves (we managed to eat one lot, but the second crop got chomped before we got a look in), and about 4 randomly planted, last-ditch-attempt spring onions.  Even our mini maize crop is in jeopardy as I don’t think we’ve got sufficient left to pollinate each other.  Weirdly, they’ve not made much impact on our herbs, and the cabbages, peppers and tomatoes were all planted in pots with copper tape around it, which as a slug deterrent seems to have worked.

But today I finally broke, and got the most friendly-sounding slug pellets I could find.  Maybe I don’t have what it takes to be a gardener, at least not yet.  I always thought gardeners were basically gentle souls, in touch with themselves and nature.  Now I discover they must have a will of steel and an impermeable conscience.  I have a will of jelly and literally can’t hurt a fly – well, the old me anyway.  New green fingered me is, I can see, going to have to toughen up if I’m going to grow anything beyond a few potatoes.

Anyway,  still waiting for the magic (non-lethal and actually quite pleasant) bullet to get the slugs to leave my veggies alone.  Answers on a postcard…

June 2017
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