Saturday, July 14, 2007

Up in the air

In a comment some time ago Nutmeg mentioned the permaculture appropriate idea of tossing seeds in the air and letting them fall where they will. It's a lovely image of abundance and faith. But to throw those seeds high is a challenge, demanding we give up even the image of control - the straight rows, the segregation, borders and easy categorisation. Of course control is a lie, as I'm reminded any time I step out the back and notice anew just how disinterested bugs, weeds and slugs are in my attempts to subdue the earth.

Lucy has no trouble letting the winds and/or fates take the seeds where they will - a seed isn't sown unless its broadcast with enthusiasm. And so I have been undertaking a post hoc experiment. In one bed I planted my beloved broad beans in straightish rows. Exhibit A:

In another bed, I accepted the Lucy sown beans that have popped up among the lupins and peas of the green manure, next to some failing purple sprouting broccoli that were planted too late in the year and then ravaged by slugs. Exhibit B:

Both lots are doing just fine, thank you. But Beans B are taller, thicker and generally seem a little more robust. Happily for me, the purple sprouting broccoli now stands tall and proud, and I might yet get to it eat with Welsh rarebit (as per the advice of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall - author, chef and inhabitant of my perfect life as a Devon smallholder). It's not science, sure, but my suspicion is that letting the seeds fall is a good option for me in my garden. They've done better than those I planted after so much careful planning; they arrived because the conditions were so right; they were not protected or subsidized by me zealous care of any tenderness. And importantly in a plot on poor soil and riddled with unwelcome species, they've helped others, even those I had farewelled.

The logic's not watertight, I know, but the possibilities of letting go are exciting. I'm trying to control my garden so much less, and work with what it is rather than what I expect it to be.

There's another reason for this new approach, and it comes back to the girls (all my gardening comes back to my girls). I choose my battles carefully and avoid saying 'no' unless I'm willing to follow through no matter what the toddler tantrum fallout may be. Saying 'no' in the garden rarely works. I turn my back and duck my head too often to see what Lu is up to, and more importantly, a garden isn't a place where 'no' sounds good to me. I want my daughters to feel confident in their surrounds, to be self-sufficient and free to explore and to act. I want them to feel they are partners, or at least a participants in how we live our lives. Our garden is a place and a process where we can encourage Lu and Nell to do and be those things. But to live this I have to give the place over to their imaginations and plans, rather than imposing my own expectations about where the beans should go and if it's a good idea to plant wheat in with the spinach.
I'm looking forward to seeing what this collaboration brings.


Kate said...

Sometimes, when I have several packets of seeds that have expired or are close to expiring, I just scatter them over an empty bed, rake them in a little, and wait and see. Sometimes this works but they often just create a feast for visiting birds!

Tasida said...

Good words.