In the garden with the children

This past week has been a joy, some lovely sunny weather at last, a real feeling of spring in the air, and the children (and Mrs Gardener) on Half Term holiday.

One evening I spent a happy hour or more sorting through my seed packets with the help of W (8) and M (3) – while their mum was at yoga. Each of them had a pile of packets, and handed them to me so that I could make a list: flowers, vegetables, and a few oddities like ornamental grasses. M enjoyed guessing the names of the plants – most flowers are poppies (red) or lavender (blue), and most veg were lettuces, courgettes or beetroot. It is my hope that, if I get her involved in growing some of these veggies, she might become more inquistive about eating them. At the moment her repertoire consists of carrots (raw) and cucumber (peeled): and that is all. W, on the other hand, has always been an avid herbivore, freely eating all manner of green stuff – his favourite being buckler-leaved sorrel, which he used to eat by the fistful as a toddler.

As well as having great fun looking at the seed packets, and discussing where we might sow them, I also learned a valuable lesson: do not buy any seeds this year! With over 100 packets in stock – and that is after throwing away any which were past their ‘sow by’ date – I can keep the garden and allotment supplied all season and beyond.

That reminds me of James Fenton’s terrific little book “A Garden from a hundred packets of seeds” – some pages of which are virtually illegible due to the weird type/background colour combinations of the design – but which has always inspired me.

Some of the seeds which I cannot use will find their way to the school I garden for, and maybe even a spot of guerrilla gardening on the school run…

M and I planted a batch of early Broad Beans a few days ago – some of which are already coming up in their loo roll root trainers, warmed by the recent sunshine in the conservatory.

And on Saturday, both children – and their sainted grandparents – were helping to shift logs and debris from our fallen apple tree. Both scuttled around keenly, scooping up armfuls of twigs and small stuff, to be put in the car and taken either for recycling, or to be burned at the allotment. There are still a large number of big chunks of wood to be turned into firewood – Michael, our neighbourhood tree surgeon, is coming to deal with those shortly. The rest has been stacked in our log store, and an improvised ‘reserve’ log pile behind the sheds. W was enormously helpful, carrying logs from the wheelbarrow and handing them to me while I performed the three-dimensional jigsaw trick of stacking irregular objects into a regular and stable pile. I have to say that – like dry-stone walling – this is a task I thoroughly enjoy. The satisfaction of creating a well-stacked log pile is enormous.

So, spring is with us. Dry days, weekends of sunshine – and every opportunity to see the children outside, getting their hands dirty, and getting the world growing again.

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