Yeah, I know – it’s May the Fourth be with you; but I just couldn’t wait till tomorrow to write this post. May is a fertile month for puns: the election slogan ‘Let June be the end of May’ is doing the rounds, and yesterday there was a great clue in the Guardian crossword, to which the answer was ‘Woman Prime Minister.’ Can you guess what the clue was? (Answer below).
I realised this morning that it’s been a week since I last posted, and that People Will Be Pining for a Post. So, what’s been happening? Well basically the garden has been happening; since, as anyone who has a patch of soil will know, now is the Crucial Time to Get Things In. So I have been diligently digging and weeding; have re-subscribed to the garden bin service, set the compost going, planted seeds and watered seedlings, bought potting compost, stuffed comfrey leaves in a bottle where they will gradually liquefy and make a plant food; and generally done all the stuff one does at this time of year.
Two months ago the garden was a mass of brambles and ivy; it is now partly cleared and dug and ready to receive what I am about to plant – to whit, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, mint (I wonder if the potatoes will come up ready-minted?) and spinach.
Gardening is work: there’s no getting away from it. You have to dig and weed and dig and weed, and weed again, and then when you’ve finished there will be more weeds. And since I utterly refuse to use weedkillers like Roundup which are spectacularly bad for the environment, that’s how it’s gonna be.
But gardening is great on so many levels: you get to watch the miracle of growth day by day (my tomato seeds are now tiny two-leaved seedlings and my little feathery plants are ready to go out into the big wide world). You get to play a part in this great miracle by enabling things to grow: you get the pleasure of watching, tending and finally eating the things that you’ve grown. But more than this, gardening quite literally earths you. I have a theory about this – well, to be fair it’s not just my theory; it comes from karma yoga – that enlightenment doesn’t just come from meditation, it comes from doing humble tasks. We all live too much in our heads: our dealings with the physical world, and particularly with the natural world, are confined to a weekend walk or a stroll in the park. This is very unhealthy – and the greatest antidote to that is to get out and dig the soil. If you are going mad from too many ideas; if your brain is spinning with emails or meetings or concepts or creative concepts; if you can’t get out of your head – then go outside and dig a bit of earth. It’s the best.
I grew up with the idea that gardening was a massive chore – not surprising, in view of the fact that our garden was half an acre of wilderness and that my parents had no help with it at all. But the garden I have now, though neglected, is manageable, and the sense of achievement is prodigious.
Pro-DIG-ious. Ho ho.
PS the crossword clue was ‘May the Second’. Good eh?