The planet is our home; we need to be more responsible. Here's what I do.
If you ask me why I garden it’s because of the hope.
It’s an intensely optimistic pastime. It can be addictive.
Getting little teeny tiny seeds, that look like dust, out of a packet and throwing them on soil with a little water is bizarre. The dusty specks swell and produce tiny white roots.
The next thing they do is generate green shoots. With larger seeds they often create comical first leaves which are like energy cells. Their key job is to get the seed started. The courgette and pumpkin family are my favourites for this. They also seem to grow fast and unfeasibly.
So then there’s tiny teeny seedlings. They remind me of lemmings, headed for the light. Leaning in spindly formation in the direction of the sun. Constant, dedicated, where the sun goes, so do they.
Next in the optimism stakes are flowers. For every flower there’s the chance of a fruit. The kiwi plant in our back yard is a prime case in point. Last year, for the first time it produced five crazy little round flower buds. They looked like footballs hanging on ridiculous stalks. When they opened they resembled the most delicate flowers ever and soon after opening they
Meanwhile the other fruit trees sustain the hope. Right now they’re covered in fruitlets. Mini apples, pears and plums by the dozen! Small, green and filled with enthusiasm.
This leads me to the frustrating tale of the one-plum-tree. It’s name speaks volumes. Year on year, it generates a few mini green plums like tiny olives. Hidden well amongst the foliage.
We hope; they hide!
Time passes Their numbers dwindle.
Eventually, regardless of our support and encouragement, the outcome is obvious. The tree embraces it’s name!
There’s other chances from cherries and nuts. We adopt more species; the choke berry and beauty berry. They are rivalled by traditional favourites, currants and raspberries. Sometimes challenged by bugs, these fruits do their utmost to reach adulthood.
Meanwhile in the veggie patch, optimism stretches across the calendar. In October we planted my favourite broad beans hoping for an early start in Spring. The weather is their challenger and this year failed to materialise; no snow, hardly any frost, ideal broad bean conditions.
Regardless of this optimum situation, the beans were a no show. The ones I gave my neighbour, planted too early in September, are mocking me across the fence as I survey the empty patch their cousins should occupy now.
Some permanent plants play games. Disappearing beneath the ground in autumn, will they ever reappear?
Rhubarb gets the ball rolling with its peculiar alien heads, followed swiftly by the asparagus. That’s such a bizarre sight. I’m sure one year someone will stick some supermarket impostors in the ground to trick me.
Globe artichokes are another teaser. And again there are neighbouring plants that torment me. I protected mine during the winter that never was while the ones across the path remained vulnerable and exposed. Now they laugh in the face of my feeble specimens, knowing their grower will neither cut nor eat the juicy heads, leaving them to decadently seed!
Bad organisation is another challenge. When I had too many courgette plants I shared them. Only to realise later they were the best crop of sweet dumpling pumpkins, that the new owner thought were decorative and who willingly sold us a couple, genuinely forgetting where he got them from. We’ve never grown them successfully since.
Then there’s the wish list. Every gardener has one and they differ vastly. I think we all have something we hope to grow better or at all. And when my beetroot are pathetic someone else will have abundance. This list seems to fluctuate from year to year. Hope is unpredictable. It’s like the ‘one that got away‘.
“I remember the year we had so many …. We could hardly get the harvest in. Never seen a crop like it!
And finally there’s sabotage! This year’s casualties have been the sweetcorn. The first batch of seedlings, carefully nurtured inside the house, moved comfortably to the little greenhouse until the pesky chickens snuck past the guards!
So optimism spurred us on to plant more, it was still early after all. In spite of our efforts, a cheeky pigeon did the unthinkable and munched batch two.
Batch three is in the ground now but my hope for them is dwindling as the storm clouds gather over head.
And as for hope? It springs eternal. Two plums please?
a blog by a multilingual expat-since-birth, linguist, researcher, mum of three, living in the Netherlands and writing about bilingualism, multiculturalism, parenting abroad, international life...