The Easter Bunny may be out doing the rounds this weekend, but the only thing I was handing out on the plot was my chitted potatoes. In recent years, there’s been a change in me that only fully accepts that it’s spring once I’ve planted my potatoes. Doesn’t matter how big the chocolate egg might be, my internal calendar has synchronised with those starchy gems, and until they’re lying in their warm little beds, I can’t fully embrace the new season.
Last year, I had great success with ‘Charlotte’, ‘Maris Piper’ and ‘Duke of York’, so this year I want to try three new varieties: ‘Melody’, Kestrel’ and ‘British Queen’. So after several weeks of chitting (I do like that word, chitting), they were ready to take up residence in their muddy troughs.
Creating those regimental troughs always brings me immense satisfaction, ridiculous as it sounds. I feel very concious that I am a gardener at that moment, doing what a gardener should be doing. Maybe it’s the physical labour, maybe it’s the sense of creating, or maybe it’s that hopeful feeling you get when you set those wrinkled tubers into the soil, willing them to produce a plentiful bounty in months to come. Whatever the reason, it’s something a gardener should relish. I mean, what can make you feel more centred than bringing life into the world that will not only nourish the soil but also the people who grew it!
As 21st century technology tries to remove us further from our natural instincts, I’m all too aware that people who garden are becoming a minority species. We’re almost regarded as ‘weird’ for not wanting to spend our Bank Holidays in the world of beige shopping precincts. As the bargain-hunting Walking Dead shuffle en masse to buy their tat from Primark, us earthy souls head for the fields, the plots, the garden in search of life. To try and to fail, to sow and harvest. We are the do-ers, we are the living. We may look like the others, dress like them, even talk like them. But we are not them. Look closer, closer still, there is something there that’s sets us apart from them, something that only us gardeners share: the dirt under our fingernails. It’s our badge of honour.