Gardening is fun, exciting, relaxing and rewarding. It is also, at times, repetitive, exhausting and disappointing. That’s life. The ups and downs. Here in South Otago, we’ve had a spring of gale force winds and bitingly cold temperatures. Seeds which germinated back in September have barely moved. Blossom has blown off fruit trees, and potatoes have been frosted. Too cold to transplant tender seedlings into the garden, cucurbits languish undercover in pots they are quickly outgrowing.
This week, my fingers chilled as I fine-weeded rows of carrot seedlings that had shown no sign of growth in weeks, I seriously contemplated downing tools and going back inside to the warmth of the fire. It wasn’t just the cold that tempted me away from the garden, but the sheer monotony of the task (fine weeding is one of the few chores I really dislike). I tossed up whether I should dash back for my iPod so I could have some music while I weeded, or run an extension cord from the house so I could have the radio by my side. Perhaps I could grab my mobile phone (a treat as we have only just received mobile coverage here in the deep south) and chat to a friend while I finished scratching up a row of weeds?
I tried focusing on the bird song, something which usually occupies my attention, and the sound of the waves on the beach below my house. But I was still discontented. And then, as I moved along the rows of seedlings, I began to unearth some of the inorganic bits and pieces which had entered the garden via my compost bin. I’m a carefree composter which means I don’t particularly sort what goes in the pile. You won’t, for instance, find me tearing the plastic tape off cartons before I biff them onto the compost (I pull it out later), or searching through the vacuum cleaner bag before I empty its contents on top of the weeds and garden scraps. While forking compost onto the garden, I’ve even been known to unearth the lost plug from the kitchen sink and the odd teaspoon or two, and once, I found our missing credit card!
On my chilly fine-weeding day, I came across paper clips, an apple label, several pieces of hard plastic from various grocery items, some bits of non-recyclable plastic wrapper, and a few fragments of twine which I recognised as being off a car part that had arrived in the mail a few months before. With just these few discoveries, I was suddenly catapulted back into the everyday world of office work, supermarket shopping, car bills and a planet overflowing with unrecyclable rubbish. And, suddenly, my weeding didn’t seem so arduous any more.
Unwelcoming we may very occasionally find the garden to be, but what a respite it is from what awaits us outside its gentle perimeters. What is the odd less-than-pleasant weeding task and chilly day compared to the chance to escape from the world of commerce, pollution and car bills? How rewarding it is, rather than heading to the supermarket, to stroll round the vege beds collecting what we need for a meal, or gathering a bunch of beautiful flowers for the table?
If you occasionally find yourself dispirited in the garden, may I suggest you be less than careful when you compost. If you are, you may find the pick-me-up you need, just below the surface of the soil!