Archive for 16/09/2020


Report on nature-based solutions for the climate emergency publishedThe post Report on nature-based solutions for the climate emergency published appeared first on Specifier Review – Architecture – Design – Innovation Kirsty HammondContinue reading Report on nature-based solutions for the climate emergency published at Specifier Review.

Report on nature-based solutions for the climate emergency published — Specifier Review

A guest post from Kathy Berry

Note from Old School Gardener: I read this wonderful piece on Facebook recently and Kathy kindly allowed me to re-post it here- I hope that you find it as inspiring and joyful as I did…

An ordinary beetroot. I pulled it and weighed it’s comfortable heft in my hand. This year I grew veg for the first time in 7 or 8 years. My large garden had gone, my health had gone, my budget had gone. My ideas completely exceeded my physical capabilities.I gave myself permission to do it badly.

I did not have a perfect plan, or a well prepared plot. I had an existing ‘flowerbed’ which last year had been rammed with annual weeds. I sowed a few seeds in miscellaneous margarine containers and plastic trays. Cress, lettuce, tomato. Things I’d grown before with ease.

Their fresh green leaves brought joy and excitement to the peculiar early days of lockdown. I brushed my hand over them on the windowsill whilst the world lay eerily quiet outside. One day, I lay in my bed reading, and every time I looked up, the leaves on the windowsill were bigger. That was actually unnerving. I’d never seen a plant grow in stop motion before my eyes.

I exchanged seeds and seedlings with friends and strangers. Small envelopes or boxes left on doorsteps. My collection grew. I watered, rotated, stroked and yes, talked to my seedlings. Although some of it strayed into weirdly sinister…”I’m going to eat you” I whispered one day, before lowering my head and biting through the stems.

As the weather warmed, I hardened off my seedlings like an overprotective parent…a few hours outside if it was not too hot, or too cold, or too windy. Soon I was transplanting. A block of spinach here, rocket there. A chalked sign to remind.

A patch I’d planted but couldn’t identify. I carefully weeded around direct sown seeds, only to realise weeks later the sowing had utterly failed and I’d been lovingly tending a patch of docks.

I recognised the self sown poppies at least. I left many of them around the edges and under leggy shrubs. No need (or space) for regimented rows in my crammed-in veg garden.

Potatoes were offered by friends and duly planted. Tomatoes grew, some spindly, some sturdy. I hardened my heart and culled the runts, and laughed at my friends with greenhouses as they raised 30, 40, 50 plants.

Impromptu roadside stalls began springing up. One neighbour arrived on my doorstep with a couple of courgette and a couple of cucumber plants. “I saw you were growing, would you like these? Yes please!”. My other neighbour had passed a driveway stall “Free tomato plants”, and their toddler returned home with their tomato, in triumph.

Long empty days found me making macrame holders for my now cramped tomato plants to maximise the windowsill light. It was warm out now, but would it last? I had no greenhouse: only the toughest would survive. Checking the weather forecast became a daily habit. I did what I could, when I could.

My ‘gardening’ rarely exceeded ten minutes a day, and yet things grew, were transplanted, grew some more.

I exchanged photos and messages with friends. “What seedling is this? I forgot to label them!” Back and forth, back and forth. Gradually, imperceptibly, I developed a little kitchen garden. I harvested raggedy rocket and spinach leaves to add to a sandwich, and glowed with satisfaction.

Plants died, were culled, were eaten (not always by me). I harvested garlic and onions from sets pressed into the soil last autumn. Disproportionate reward, for an Amazon purchase and a few minutes of pressing my fingers into the ground. My completely indoorsy, computer orientated son was nudged to come out for just a few minutes for some light and air.

He found he liked hoeing, and we would sit companionably working alongside each other for ten or fifteen minutes. “This is homegrown!” became a familiar mealtime refrain.

I savoured the casual thrill of walking into the garden and selecting the biggest onion or freshest leaves to add to my meal. A mini greenhouse was researched, bought and built. My son and I worked a relay, putting a few poles together, resting to catch our breath whilst the other took over.

Tomatoes, cucumbers and courgettes went out. Of course it grew cold again. I laughed and shrugged. They’ll make it or they won’t. One left over tomato was planted outside, to take it’s chance (it grew to a mighty sprawling triffid, heavily laden with large tomatoes… although they appeared late and struggled to ripen (but that is a whole other story)).

Potatoes harvested- nice taste, disappointing yield for one, great yield but waxy, disintegrating flesh the other. Succession plantings to fill gaps opening in beds. These seedlings were neglected rather more…now my attention was divided. Although I did carry them back and forth, night and morning, between my and my son’s room, to catch the most light.

One mini cucumber! A triumph! And delicious. Courgettes failed utterly. Flowers fell, promising looking swellings suddenly arrested. Nevermind. Raspberries now. So many raspberries.

I start to count how many things I have ended up growing, in my “just do it badly” garden: Rocket, lettuce, chives, onion, garlic, sage, broccoli, kohl rabi, spinach, potato, raspberries, tomatoes, cucumber. Swede, cress, mustard. Beetroot.

A friend gave me a few stray beetroot seedlings in a yoghurt pot. I teased them gently apart and transplanted them in a short row at the back of a bed. And then did nothing, and neither did they, for many weeks. But one day, suddenly, as if they had found their feet (roots?) they began to grow. And only short weeks later I harvested my first beetroot in over twenty years. I boiled it. It was delicious.

I’ve waited another four weeks or so for this one to swell. Today felt like a day I could spare the energy to boil a beetroot. And here it is. Just an ordinary beetroot, but like every plant in my garden this year, I know it’s story; it’s origins, it’s setbacks and failures.

Holding it now, I try to put into words what I’m feeling. It’s quieter than joy. Contentment? Satisfaction? Connection. This beetroot exists because I planted it there. I smile at my beetroot, and go to write an essay of celebration.

Kathy and her son, Hugh
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