I’ve been gardening and all things outdoors since I was about five years of age or younger. It became a source of extra pocket money to buy seeds and compost back in the days of thirty pence per week end pocket money when compost, bagged, would cost about one pound. That, in very simple mathematics, at the time was many chocolate-less weekends and that before I bought any seeds.
In the time frame since then I’ve seen garden trends in Ireland go from a bed of blue white, blue white allysum and lobelia under the front window sill with a cherry tree in the corner to streets of driveways turning to cobble in the late eighties and early nineties. Decking then became the choice of room outside improvements as the pitch and putt clubs were left for a day on the golf course and microwaves dropped in price from several hundred pounds to just double figures. Most recently as we are all so well aware, what I can only describe as a grow your own pandemic has take the country by storm. Pardon the weather related pun.
Stepping back to the eighties and my childhood days… what I realise is that there was no rocket science to what was or is now labelled growing my own bits and bobs. As a family we had two apple trees that were never pruned, unless that is a branch got in the way of the washing line. The rhubarb sat there next to the ‘compost’ heap and equally just kept on giving year after year. The stools were never split as is considered best practice and on that note when I say compost heap what I really mean is the corner of the garden where anything green or brown got dumped.
Our parsley got exactly the same treatment, the same as mine does today. None. I pick it and it grows. Alright and fair enough there may be some weeding in between, but again nothing that would require a Haynes manual.
Recently in the UK the first ever Edible Garden Show took place. Their website comes notes that More and more people are turning to growing their own produce as it provides fresh food, exercise and can save money. A bold statement from a show were sales, stands and sponsorship from the likes of Miracle Grow ensure that 2012 bookings are now taking place. The fact that there is an edible garden show brimmed to capacity is testament as to what consumers are looking at.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to discourage anything gardening, great outdoors or grow your own. Far from it and I will agree with the fresh food and exercise bit. But in a world gone mad I know that my investment in a garden soil sieve way back when, that I still have, probably doesn’t help a show like this to continue in the slightest, commercially.
During my recent appearance on RTE’s Four Live show I spoke about and demonstrated growing your own from produce that may warrant being chucked on the compost heap. At the [Fingal] libraries grow your own talks and to the very recent Oldbridge Country fair garden talks that I gave recently it was all about making sure that if you are going to grow your own pot of potatoes [for example] that it should at the very least cost less than it does to buy a bag in any supermarket.
This isn’t a case of me flying my own flag and suggesting how eloquengt in this department of horticulture I am, far from it. I am a Dublin based gardener writing for a newspaper available only in Galway. But there’s a logic in there somewhere that I speak about, that I practice and therefore speak of. It’s the way I do it, the way I practice and therefore the way in which I type. It is one might say like second nature to me.
I have seen people purchase grow your own kits that are so readily available for sale and I merely think to myself jam jar. No offence and once again if you are growing anything in whatever format you choose then you have my applause.
But no matter what I say, I realise that the farmers who grow near where I live own fields. Fields of soil. They don’t own raised beds. They don’t use composts with miraculous powers and in their book under the chapter titled how to grow [insert name of vegetable of choice here] they most likely have one line that says: pop the seed in the ground.
For me gardening made and present tense, makes me smile. My local library is where my research took place into why it went possibly wrong. But in the ideal world of commercial-less gardening it was noted to me recently that the only time growing vegetables ever went dramatically wrong in this country was 1847 and it wasn’t because of they used the wrong fertiliser.