Caught by the River

To The Greenhouse

Tracey Thorn | 12th October 2010

by Tracey Thorn


Oh, but I am a fair weather gardener. I hang my head in shame as I tell you this, and I accept without complaint the accusation that it relegates me to the category of Not Really A Proper Gardener At All. But what can I say, it’s the truth, and I have to own to up to it in this column, if nowhere else.

At this time of year I embark on a grand and thoroughly self-defeating project of Putting Everything Off. The autumn clear-up needs to be started, I know it does, and I know everything will look better once I get on with it, but still … I fanny around making another cup of tea, I leaf through the paper, I go and make a stupid joke on Twitter … ANYTHING rather than dig up the mouldy courgette plants, haul the old Grobags out of the greenhouse, and generally start putting everything to bed for the winter.

This year my laziness is compounded by another fact, which is that of probable and imminent house-moving. There is every chance that by next spring we will be living in a different house, where I will have a much smaller garden, and no greenhouse at all. You might think this is a nightmare haunting my every waking moment, but in fact I’m very excited about the move. I’m looking forward to the general down-sizing it represents, and I love the house we’re moving to, but it does mean I’m having to think about saying goodbye to this particular garden. My heart is NEVER in the job of tidying up at the end of summer, because I am basically a) lazy and b) untidy, but this year I will be tidying up in order for someone else to start reaping the benefits next spring. And that someone might not even be much of a gardener. Might not want to grow vegetables. Might not even want my greenhouse.

Again, I stress that this really is not making me enormously sad. Despite a career of writing songs which suggest otherwise, I’m not a great dweller in the past, and once I’ve moved from anywhere I very easily leave it behind. But the mental energy that I would normally be putting into planning next year’s seed-sowing and vegetable rotating, I am now putting into the entirely different project of working how how I am going to garden a much smaller space. I’ll have to return to doing a lot more container gardening, which I love for its manageability, and without a greenhouse I’ll be making use of indoor windowsills, and sheltered sunny corners, and possibly a cold-frame or two. I’ve started searching out the on-line blogs of those who manage to grow vegetables on the balconies of high-rise flats, and the economies of scale involved in this kind of project are just what appeal to my instinctive minimalism. I love the thought of having to make every square inch productive in some way, and am already envisaging beds which will have lettuces interspersed with flowering plants, and pots of herbs and tomatoes which will look as ornamental as the geraniums and hostas they will sit beside.

More than anything, what excites me is the prospect of change. In truth, gardening can become repetitive, the same jobs need doing at the same time of year, every year, and whilst that is one of its comforts and pleasures, it can occasionally lead to a loss of inspiration. A new space, even a smaller one which will inevitably place restrictions on what I can do, contains new possibilities, and new problems which have to be solved. Planning is required. Much consulting of books for ideas. The studying of other people’s gardening blogs … it’s all VERY VERY IMPORTANT AND TIME-CONSUMING and means I can’t go outside and clear up those dahlias just now. Sorry.

Read Tracey’s previous columns here

‘Love And Its Opposite’ album and the ‘Opposites’ EP are out now on Strange Feeling Records