The joy of clearing the decks

Last season’s gone, and the new one is about to begin

As gardeners go, we’re not very good. We do try, earnestly and with great good will, from early spring and into and through the growing season, to coax healthy food from our beds. But by about mid-autumn, when the green tomatoes linger and the French beans wither, when the asparagus has set a few orange seeds on their spindly branches, and when we’re heartily sick of any more kale, we seem to abandon the polytunnel and retreat into the living room.

There we might watch Monty Don explain how to get your garden ready for the winter, while we look at each other and arch our eyebrows. Oh yeah? And then we hardly ever open the reluctant sliding doors again until the crocuses emerge outside.

So yesterday we found ourselves inside the polytunnel as the rain beat down, pulling all the dried up stems and turning the ground over in the raised beds. It was only a couple of hours before the place was nearly clear. But those two hours just didn’t seem feasible late in the season when our spirits were flagging. Somehow, with the heralded onset of spring, our energy has renewed itself and we could begin the preparation proper.

There’s still a lot of work to do, of course, before things start to grow again. Direct planting of seeds into the beds, or earlier germination in seed trays in the warmer conservatory will soon begin. Before we get to that point, we need to top dress the beds with a big bag each of non-peat-based compost. And clear the space of accumulated things that have found their way inside, willy-nilly, over the winter months. Digging and finessing, smoothing and prepping — it’s all go today, and the sunshine offers that extra zing of anticipated delight.

But yesterday was already a joy; I kept thinking, I really must have a little rest from all this pulling and heaving and digging, and then something else would catch my attention and I was away again. Of all our investments around this place, over the past thirty years, the installation of the polytunnel a decade ago has been a particular source of joy. The five raised beds, and the two demarcated floor-level beds, seem to make it easier to concentrate on the task at hand without being overwhelmed by the totality of the effort. And then, of course, the end result is cumulative, and when the whole place is growing, the feeling can be exultative.

We can look forward with anticipation, but in the meantime a quiet rest and a contemplation of the seeds at hand, or a purview of the gardening catalogues, sounds just the ticket, while we rest from our heavy gardening labours.

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