My “mowing meditation” today has been about the nature of time, and living in the moment, and how gardening involves a lot of thinking forward.
What brought this on was the realisation that there is now just over a week to go until the winter solstice. I have only just got my head around planting all the cold lovers, and already the window of opportunity is closing. Time …
The seasonality of gardening is a profound reality. There is no getting round it. I think in our modern, urban culture, we are so divorced from the seasons, so used to having strawberries in autumn and apples in spring, that it is easy to think we are boss of the seasons. We are so used to harnessing and coralling time that we forget that there is a great deal about reality that we humans don’t, can’t control. If I get philosophical (as I do when mowing!) I think this has to do with how we got the planet to the mess it’s in.
In just over a week we will pass the turning point of the year and the days will begin to lengthen again. Though it will still be winter for another couple of months, plants know – amazingly, astoundingly, awe-inspiringly – that the season has passed a nadir. They don’t live wholly in the moment. They’re thinking forward. They’re getting ready to hitch a ride on the roller coaster of time as it passes, unlike we humans who think we can make it wait.
We can do a certain amount to ameliorate the effects of seasonality. We can notice and understand the microclimates within our garden – the places where it is colder, warmer, drier, wetter, windier, stiller. We can choose and even breed plant varieties that are less sensitive, or that pick up where another of their relatives leaves off. We can even freeze and pickle and bottle (though all of these take so much energy, they usually use more calories than they preserve.)
But all these only have a marginal effect. Right now in my garden, I have self sown Italian silver beet that is doing ten times as well as my mollycoddled seedlings. The seed sat there all year and picked now to take off.
I am glad I have lots of well-advanced seedlings like the one in the picture ready to plant out this planting break – silver beet and spinach, broccoli and caulis, kale and celery and parsley and pak choi. I will get a decent period of bearing out of them through July and August, before the warmer weather makes them want to bolt to seed and the aphids and cabbage moths appear.
I’ll plant another batch of seed of lettuce, celery, silver beet, spinach, kale, and chinese greens. But I shall have to treat them well and get them growing fast because they will all be inclined to bet on an early bolt to seed so as to have babies ready to take advantage of the spring they know is coming. It is already too late for more caulis or broccoli in my part of the world.
And I shall have to look at my seed stocks this week and start thinking about spring myself, unless I fancy being outsmarted by a cabbage.