To my sheer delight I discovered last week that I have an allotment. Having at last reached the top of the Landport waiting list I have by remarkable good fortune been allotted the land previously cultivated by my friends Chloe and Tilo. Once again, my gratitude in advance has been heard (thank you)…
This is a lovely embryonic Permaculture patch, with fruit trees and bushes, a mammoth rhubarb and another giant rosemary now in full-on pale blue flower. Plus five full compost bins and an equal number of water butts and a very leaning shed… Any gardener reading this will understand the depth of my joy at being given land to caretake. For the gardening instinct runs deep among us. Evidence shows that we humans have been growing our food, mostly small scale, for 14,000 years, long before the advent of so-called civilization.
When I dig out the weeds, tamping down the clods of soil with my hoe to a fine tilth seed bed, when I sow peas as I did this morning, I am re-enacting a sacred and life-giving act that runs back and forth through the generations. It’s an act of love and interdependence, human to land, hand to soil. As I lean over in the hoeing and the seeding it’s as though my body remembers the work of all the past generations of growers. Our present fossil-fuelled supermarket fed way of life is only that of my generation – my grandparents knew how to grow a tomato or two, as did my father, even if it was just as a hobby.
This is the month in which we sow most of our seeds for the year to come, hoping and praying for a perfect balance of light, heat and wet, fondling, feeding, the soil that will nourish us. We are totally interdependent on our Mother Earth, our soil. Though most of the other allotmenteers seem to prefer a scorched earth approach, to a permaculturalist that is anathema; I will be covering the soil with straw mulch and green manures like clover and phaecelia, feeding it with nettle and horsetail teas and sprays. Dreaming into being my future food. All is well in the garden. As William Blake put it:
To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.