The COVID-19 pandemic is doing strange things to people. Take me, for example. I’ve started gardening.
I’m sorry, I really should have prepared those who know me by telling them to sit down before they started reading. To say I’m not one of nature’s gardeners is something of an understatement. Put it this way: when the time comes for me to shuffle off this mortal coil and enter that bourne from whence no traveller returns, the person who is tasked with writing a summary of my worldly interests is not going to get to the end of the list and think “Hang on, I forgot to mention gardening.”
Oh, it started innocently enough. Thanks to Ashcroft Communities in Bloom, there is a lovely raised flower bed on the plot of lawn in front of the Journal office, and last year I rather neglected it (translation: whatever managed to grow there did so without any assistance from me, and spent a blissfully untroubled summer). This year I was determined to at least keep it free from weeds: a low bar, I know, but one has to start somewhere.
So late last month, in between bouts of staring at my computer, I would amble outside and pull a few weeds. Soon I had an impressive pile of dying weeds and a clear bed, and I admit I found it enjoyable to be out there in the sunshine and fresh air, alone with my thoughts, getting dirt under my fingernails, encountering any number of strange insects, pulling little thorny bits out of my flesh, scraping my fingers on rocks …
Okay, I’m rapidly going off the whole gardening idea, so let’s move on. The tulips that were blooming would, I knew, soon be but a memory, so I thought about what I could plant there to fill up the bed once they were done. Flowers sprang to mind, but lovely as they look, there’s all that dead-heading later on, and that period when they go all leggy unless you’re scrupulous about looking after them, and I didn’t know if I was ready for that level of commitment.
Then it hit me: vegetables! The perfect solution. They’d look nice growing — nicer than last year’s lush crop of weeds, at any rate — and there was the undoubted bonus of being able to eat them at some point. So I asked Wendy Coomber if she had any tomato and pepper plants this year, and she said she’d set a few aside.
Then I wandered over to Home Hardware. They had some rather nice looking pots of basil, oregano, and parsley, and I thought “Well, okay, I use all three, and it is a rather large bed.” As I stood there, a delivery of hanging baskets came in, and there was one that had cherry tomatoes in it, and I thought “Just the ticket! It won’t go in the bed, but I have lots of places I could hang it.”
I simply couldn’t resist another hanging basket with assorted flowers in it. Then I was out at Horsting’s, and they had some lovely spinach and lettuce and kale and chives all ready to plant — there’d be room in the bed for them as well — and some marigolds that were simply too cheerful to resist, and then there were the pansies, which are absolutely my favourite flower and remind me of my beloved Grandma Grant, and snapdragons, and gazanias, which always do so well here, and I had those leftover flower pots from two years ago which would be perfect for them, and then Dave brought by a packet of broad bean seeds, which when planted would just about fill up the Journal bed…
You see how insidious it is? You start off pulling a few weeds, and next thing you know you’re taking seed spacing seriously and thinking about pH levels and debating the merits of steer vs. mushroom manure with Willow at Home Hardware. Now, if you don’t mind, I have to run. I don’t think the broad beans have started sprouting yet, but I don’t want to miss them when they do.
Barbara Roden is editor of the Ashcroft Cache Creek Journal.