Though I’ve been living through great uncertainty about where our home is in the world, I knew the moment I began to feel more settled. One afternoon I found myself planting a tiny kitchen garden. If you are a bit rootless, like I have been of late, even a small pot of something growing can make you feel more present. I began with a doorstep garden.
Though I adored my rambling Sussex garden, a kitchen garden really is best located close to the kitchen. There was something of a cliff to walk down to get to our greenhouse. Send a young girl with a trug! Bring me lettuce! So here, I pulled together some of our lovely grey wooden boxes and filled them with the wonderful, rich compostthat my parents make. The children planted spinach in a row, one knuckle deep, and pressed the surface of the other two boxes with various lettuce seeds. Sprinkle light soil over it, and spray with water so as not to disturb. Now our thumb-sprinklers have arrived we can use those throughout the delicate seedling days.
The great thing about late summer or early autumn just-got-round-to-it gardening, is that the warmth tends to set things germinating immediately. I’ll be trying four-season gardening again this year, though without the benefits of a greenhouse.
In a matter of days we had a lush little patch, and began to eat the thinnings (just pluck some that are too close together to thrive) and then settle into pulling a few outer leaves when needed. I still forget that the patch is there, mind you.
I find that greens are the vegetables that I’m most likely to waste. Much better to pick it fresh, luminous and green, and otherwise let it grow happily til needed. Even this tiny patch of greens is a tremendous pleasure, the sense of accomplishment, of an attachment to one’s food. It isn’t a lot of work, just watering now and then, but the work put in seems to redouble the pleasure got out – each leaf is more valuable to me than a whole supermarket lettuce ever could be. Do you have a garden on your back step? Keep a pot of herbs or lettuces? Or a grand vegetable patch? An orchard, a farm? I aspire.