I read somewhere that children who are able to defer gratification are often found to be more socially mobile in later life, which might be taken as a proxy for "successful". Is the same true for gardeners do you think? I'ver been pondering this as the spring weather has continued to perplex and vex me. With not a little caution, my tender tomato and courgette plants went out as soon as it seemed that the temperatures might be warm enough to sustain them, at least with a bit of evening cosseting until they hardened off a little. But as soon as they started to progress, the day time temperatures would fall and development would stall, Tantalisingly, cucurbit seed leaves would open wide, only to get stuck like supplicants to some greater authority. Seedlings were potted on, would grow a bit, then halt. Alliums would start to unfold, then think better of it. Leek seeds, promisingly named and normally dependable, just never made an appearance at all.
|Wild garlic, back of the shed, with insidious convolvulus|
None of this matters much I've decided. Firstly because I don't consider myself to be a gardener and success isn't that much of an issue. Indeed, one of the pleasures of growing vegetables is that, apart from a few permanent crops, the patchwork of a plot changes from year to year, perfect for lightweights like me; and for those who love the order of straight lines and grids, there is a great deal to be said for a line of pea sticks, catch crop lettuces, and tobleroned potatoes however long you have to wait.
|Lettuce plant from the Chinese lady; my swap was asparagus|
Secondly, there are always - always - other pleasures: this year's frenzied bird activity; a female black cap gorging in the blossom before it disappeared, a robin singing for a solid hour waiting for the opportunity to pick over that space where the seeds have been hoed back; a pair of speckled woods twisting upwards. Or the plants that just get on and do their own thing, when they're good and ready, or those that have stuck out the winter and will just seed themselves if you wait long enough.
|Rocket, gone to seed|
And if you are really lucky and it rains most of the summer so the rhubarb can establish itself, and the leek moth can't take hold, and the asparagus beetle gets washed off, and whitefly finds it a little too windy or chilly, or whatever, then you can eat just-what-your-body-ordered purple sprouting broccoli everyday for a fortnight, give asparagus to your mates, plan to make fig and rhubarb jam, grill your leeks with peppers at £1 a giant bowl from the grocer on Bow Road. It doesn't even seem to matter much that when you get home after a day when you seem to have spent most of the day planting or sowing or weeding with your arse in the air in Uttanasana and you feel fit for nothing more than a good scrub and something to drink.
I just may have said this every year since I started writing this blog. Or I may just be feeling a little more philosophical about the small pleasures in life today.