Twenty-twenty will go down in history as a year in which we went back to basics and changed habits of a lifetime (although obvs a few remain – Elaine still thinks four squares of Cadbury’s Whole Nut constitutes a healthy breakfast, and Caroline continues to count red wine as one of her five a day). Today we’re looking at three things we learned about how gardening impacts our lives, and why we’d like to hang onto these lessons no matter what happens in 2021.
1. Growing your own veg is worth it!
Last summer we all had a bit more time to grow some back garden veg. If you followed our full ‘DigYourOwna4Corona’ course you should still be reaping the benefits now – our feature picture today shows the range of winter veg Tim brought in from our garden this morning. How much better for your soul, your health and the planet is this, than buying flaccid ‘fine’ beans flown half way round the world guzzling aviation fuel in plastic packaging to put on the shelves of your local coronavirus-ridden supermarket?
Veg growing is a win-win-win so let’s keep on doing it!
We’ll be with you every step of the way with regular tips on what you should be doing when, and are already working on the ‘Growbags’ Veg Growers Notebook’ to be launched at Easter.
2. Gardening promotes a sense of well-being
Ah yes, well it’s absolutely true that, virus or no virus, chocolate has a very short shelf-life in our house……! But on the horticultural front, I think many more people have become aware this year that tending to plants does something good to our minds. 2020 was BIG BOOM-TIME for gardeners – from being widely regarded as a slightly sad middle-class pursuit for the over-the-hill brigade, Lockdown propelled it centre-stage. A garden, a balcony, a window-box – they all became trending hashtags and the must-haves of the year.
The enforced regulations and the possible shortage of fresh food encouraged hundreds of thousands of folk to use their neglected patch as more than a place to put the BBQ. Prospects of healthy home-grown veg, herbs and flowers and a warm smug glow to boot. Lovely! But something else happened too, of even more lasting value……….. Four factors conspired :
a. The very wet winter was followed by a truly glorious bright warm spring
b. The lack of traffic- or air-noise and pollution
c. The need for somewhere calm but absorbing, in the face of terribly frightening national and international news
d. The difficulties of spending real time with friends and family
And together they meant that millions of people found out what we gardeners have long known – the process of tending plants ‘helps’ us mentally in mysterious ways.
But why? Is it the combination of patience and nurturing and (often) hard graft that speaks to our souls? There are certainly as many disappointments (slug-ravaged plants, collapsed seedlings, rust-covered hollyhocks etc.) as there are tangible rewards in gardening. Honestly, talk about ‘delayed gratification’ ! Horticulture is the very reverse of bingeing on takeaway deliveries in front of a TV boxset which was the Lockdown ‘instant’ alternative. (and very nice it was too, at times!) So it can’t be that.
It’s what Andrew Marvell called ‘A green thought in a green shade’ back in 1681, and Mary Howitt (1799-1888) referred to in a poem:
Yes! In the poor man’s garden grow
Far more than hearts and flowers,
Kind thoughts, contentment, peace of mind,
And joy for weary hours.
Bang on, Mary, and not just in a poor man’s garden, but in EVERY garden! We feel better out there.
Chelsea is going to have a new category in 2021 called ‘Sanctuary Gardens’, dozens of articles and books have been published about horticulture as therapy for your mind and soul …………………..Yeah, yeah, I know it won’t have turned us all into amazing gardeners by the end of all this. But if Covid-19 has enabled a lot more of us to realise that we need plant-growing as much, AT LEAST as much, as the plants need us: that has got to be a precious result, hasn’t it?
3. Sharing and buying locally is a Good Thing
It’s all very worthy – living the ‘Good Life’ (and who could deny the eye-popping magnificence of Laura’s parsnip?) and thinking higher thoughts among the peasticks, but personally I found the veg growing quite tricky. Didn’t you?
Between reading the tips and getting outside, I’d often forgotten the recommended planting depth/what leaves to pinch out/what I was actually growing (a great surprise when the raised bed I thought I’d planted with broad beans came through as potatoes). I needed a LOT of help, but, and this third positive is the most important in my book, this year I felt I could ask the silliest questions because none of the stand-offish norms applied. No one made me feel inadequate!
And in 2020 there was a great deal of seed, seedling, produce and expertise sharing. Social media was an absolute boon. I did a lot of swaps through all the new Facebook groups that sprung up. Of course techno-dinosaurs (Elaine and Laura) were still tottering about putting produce on tables outside their local shop but that was great too in its quaint way. I really hope we go on sharing in the same way – it’s the new future!
And finally, how grateful were we for our local nurseries when the big online retailers struggled to cope with surging orders? Many small family suppliers quickly upped their online sales service and personally delivered to local gardeners, many of whom were shielding. While I can hardly remember what on earth I’ve planted or where, I won’t be forgetting how vital it is to go on supporting these local heroes.
Finally, Louise has a plant that seems to shine both summer and winter, click on the Great Plants this Month block below to find out what it is.
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