Sunday, 5 June 2011

Sunday in the garden - Life on Pig Row - Here on Pig Row I am busy planting sweet peas


Here on Pig Row I am busy planting sweet peas in their final place, digging over the soil is liberating, pulling out the weeds, adding compost bringing a barren piece of land to life. I have a great sense of peace here on my hillside, just me, a spade and a bucket for the weeds. Little D must have an inbuilt radar for peaceful people, he staggers up the steps pulling his Mum behind him; there is that moment when I can’t make out who is controlling whom, the reins pull one way and back again. It would only take my wife to say, ‘mush’ and there would be a sense of order but Little D seems to be winning the battle, it is not a question of guiding him with the reins, it is more a belief that if you hold on hard enough he may at some point sit down. He does, in the bucket, and inspects the weeds, holding each up, marking them, grading them and depositing them beneath the rhubarb leaves. He has his form of order and tidiness. He’s back up again, using the newly planted sweet peas and bamboo tripods to steady himself, he giggles, stomps off, my wife barely has time to kiss me bye before she is dragged away towards the glasshouse.

I carry on digging. It is best to keep out of these things.

There are a few yells, screams of pleasure from Little D, cries of ‘Oh for God’s sake’ from my wife. Little D has found the shed, he has found the clutter, he has found paradise, plastic plant pots fly, string is found with a manic laughter akin to master criminal in a James Bond movie. I can’t help but smile, it brings another story to my garden, the day I planted sweet peas, the day Little D discovered the great pleasure of touching plants, pushing his face against the glasshouse windows. I don’t think my wife sees it the same way as she is dragged past me down the steps and into the house.

I take a walk up to see what the damage is, I throw the Little D excavations back into the shed, lock it, you never know, he will be back. I check the glasshouse, the tomatoes are wilting under the blazing sun and for the first time in the year I have to pull out the glasshouse shading open all the vents and damp down the central path. I water in the newly planted tomatoes in the border, Arkansas Traveller, I don’t know what they look like or what they taste like, such is the beauty of swapping seed. Another gardener tells you, ‘Try this, they’re great’ and I don’t hesitate, if another gardener recommends it, I try it. The tomatoes bounce back to life under the watering can rose and the shading helps to keep them happy. The same can’t be said for my wife, she reappears at the bottom of the garden, towed along in the wake of Little D, I catch on the air as she passes, ‘Five times around the larder, three times around the kitchen, up and down the stairs twice, send help, send tea’.

I go back to digging, there will be time for tea but Little D needs to be asleep for us to really have a brew. The oldest tale of parenthood is whatever drink you make yourself will never get drunk; they will just stew on a mantelpiece, a sideboard and kitchen unit. There are signs that Little D is flagging, as they sail past on the final flurry towards the house, I can hear him muttering, a garbled mess but you can tell by the way he’s chewing his dummy that it won’t be long before he is asleep and we can sit down, drink tea, eat cake and talk in hushed whispers as he flops over both our knees. But that is later, now peace returns, the soil is turned and I get down on my knees and start to plant my sweet peas for this year, in goes Noel Sutton, White Leamington with its elegant, pure white, frilly flowers, the only sweet pea I always grow the sweetly scented Miss Willmott, the glorious Winston Churchill and the crimson frilled flowers of Beaujolais, a mere £5.95 for seed that has become one hundred and twenty six healthy plants. If you want to try any, you can still direct sow and get a late flowering of sweet peas. They’re available from Dobies http://www.dobies.co.uk.

They sweet peas will bring colour to Pig Row and in those brief moments of peace I can cut them, give them to my wife and remind that regardless of Little D, I will always grow her flowers.

Andrew Oldham writes about gardening at Pig Row. Pig Row is split into three gardens, the fruit & herb garden, the allotment and the meadow. These gardens are spread over a quarter of an acre on top of the Pennines. Weather is not a problem there, it is a lifestyle. He has received no formal training in gardening. He ignored the gardening wisdom his father told him and opted to eat fresh peas straight from the pod. In his defence he was only six. He has learnt from his experiences of building several gardens from scratch and working an allotment. Andrew is an organic gardener and keeps chickens. His work has featured in The Sunday Times MagazineGrow Your OwnThe Cottage Gardener and on BBC Radio Four. He is an ex-BBC Journalist. He still eats most of the peas before they get to the kitchen but learnt to listen to his father.