Caught by the River

To The Greenhouse

Tracey Thorn | 18th May 2010

by Tracey Thorn.


Perhaps it was a mistake trying to grow “La Diva” cucumbers.

They’re sulky little madams at the best of times, cucumber plants. The slightest chill breeze, or a splash too much water on their feet, and that’s it. They freeze you out, first by standing there looking you in the eye and REFUSING to grow another inch, then tossing their hair at you as they wilt slowly down into their pots. “SEE! See what you’ve done to me with your neglect and cruelty … oh, I die, I DIE!”

Last year I won them over. It was a project, albeit a slightly demeaning one, and I was at their beck and call every minute of the day for the first month or so; opening and closing the window on request, pulling down the blind at midday, fanning them, fetching a little muffler in the evenings. And I was rewarded with a glut of cucumbers the like of which I never wish to see again. Ended up literally GIVING them away. A box outside the house said, “Help Yourself! Free Cucumbers! Take One! Please, Please Take One, No, Take Two, Wait, Come Back …”

This year I have of course been slightly busier, so yes, a miniscule degree of neglect has crept in. There was one day when it got too hot in there, I admit, and possibly an evening last week when the temperature dropped a little lower than I would have liked before I remembered to shut the door. And the variety I’m growing this year is – La Diva! So I have lost two out of the three plants. And lost them in a Tallulah Bankhead-worthy performance of suffering and decline. I am not going to rise to it. I have sown four more, and they are already through.

Meanwhile, outside the weather has been changeable, in a way that is always alarming to gardeners; but I’ve already sown carrots and lettuces, and planted out beans, tomatoes, and today, the dahlias. It was a bit warm and muggy out there, slatey grey clouds, and while I was digging it suddenly became very very still all around me, the way it does when the wind drops just before it properly rains. A strange, indefinable kind of stillness, but not quiet, as it was filled with the sound of hidden birdsong from every tree, all alerting each other to the change in the weather that was coming, and the promise of worms. Peaceful and busy at the same time.

read Tracey’s previous columns HERE.

Tracey’s new album, ‘Love And Its Opposite’, is out on May 17.