Victory Against Idleness.
All too often I find myself sitting in front of the fire, leisurely perusing Giles and Sue Live The Good Life with a large cup of coffee, while outside, our cosy homestead, the year is passing and nothing has happened in the garden. There are certain gardening windows of opportunity I don't want to miss this year because I've got my head buried in a book and no bulbs buried in the garden.
A call to action is Planting Plans for Your Kitchen Garden: How to Create a Vegetable, Herb and Fruit Garden in Easy Stages by Holly Farrell (£14.99, How to Books) which is about the most comprehensive guide to planning a garden I have come across. Whether you are looking to garden as a family, want veg through the year, or would like to use your garden produce for jam-making and baking, there is a plan in this book for you. Farrell devotes the first section of Planting Plans for Your Kitchen Garden to helping readers assess their garden - the soil, the amount of space, sun and shelter - and what they want to get out of it. She even provides a specific plan for a garden with a clay soil like mine.
Victory Against Ignorance.
Most of the vegetables I have grown in the past five years have been prime examples of Survival of the Fittest. Successes have more been a matter of luck than judgement. It's a waste of time and seed to attempt gardening without any kind of knowledge.
Farrell includes just the right amount of detail about identifying and removing weeds, successful composting and preparing beds- perhaps I can grow more than rhubarb and gooseberries, if I follow her advice to improve our clay soil. Neither does she include endless off-putting descriptions of What Can Go Wrong, with pages of nasty photos of carrot fly and aphids.
Carrot-fly, by the way, does not have to be a foregone conclusion. British-bred Carrot ‘Flyaway’ was developed especially for its resistance to Carrot Root Fly making it less susceptible to attack than many other varieties. A naturally very sweet tasting variety with smooth skinned, blunt ended roots and a good orange skin and root colour; seeds are available from Thompson and Morgan here.
Victory Against Want.
We are completely spoiled for choice in all aspects of our lives, from the racks and racks of clothes we find in high street stores every season to the huge supermarket aisles devoted to cereals. No-one needs 27 types of washing-up liquid to choose from, and nine kinds of children's toothpaste. Eating seasonally means we eat what is available when it is at its best, rather than strawberries all year round, just because we fancy them for pudding. Growing our own will help us focus on what we need to eat, rather than what we simply want.
Victory Against Disease.
Apart from the health benefits of eating more vegetables and fruit, especially organically grown and freshly picked from the garden, I think that this project will help manage my depression. It's a purposeful, constructive activity which takes place in the open air and offers opportunity for physical exercise and stress relief.
Farrell includes a module of scented and medicinal herbs - lavender, lemon thyme, bergamot, lemon verbena, feverfew, lemon balm, chamomile and peppermint, which are "the most suitable for home remedies and tea-making": an element I would like to bring to my garden this year. I have lavender bushes already, and have been sent a packet of chamomile seeds by Thompson and Morgan, so that's a good start.
Our garden is not at its best at this time of year, but it would hardly win any trophies in peak condition. I would like to inject some colour and beauty into our living space. Module 25 - Annual Cut Flowers - is the one I am interested in here. It features "easy-to-grow, traditional cottage garden cut flowers that are less common in the shops": sweet peas, cosmos, bullwort, cleome, scabious, and cornflowers.
The first two on this list have been kindly sent to me by Thompson and Morgan, so there are no excuses! "All these annuals are cut-and-come-again", says Farrell, "providing very British posies all summer." The garden must not be a waste of space but there is no reason why it cannot look good and be useful at the same time.
Beveridge would be proud.