Laughing With the Land

I had an inkling this might happen.

A  rush and a push and a simultaneous explosion of blackthorn, peach, almond, gage, pear and apple. Never in a month of May Days have the bees got up to such a heady cocktail. Similarly the seedlings, sat in two-month sulk on the staging, lurch suddenly into becoming: all wanting to get outside now.

Any minute now. Even in years of steadier defrosting, spring’s emergency is a moment of nervous excitement, a brinking of stress and joy, for the gardener. Right now, this urban market gardener is chasing his tail and the only thing keeping things together is the amazing, steady work being done by the sowers, potters, cultivators, planters and grocers at Hawkwood. Somehow Hannah seems to find happy homes for not just the mixed salad and rhubarb, but also the endive, wild rocket and nettles, whatever fits and bursts they put on. Clare’s maternity left a gaping hole in the crucial plant stalls portfolio, but Marlene has jumped into her veggie biker boots: everything’s gonna be alright.

Every week Jo& co. play seedling tetris, bravely attempting to wedge in trays and pots whose combined surface area exceeds that of the sought-after hot bench. Nights are still cold. Late frost hunches in the peripheral like a pick pocket. Plants are trollied out of the glasshouse, then back in a day later at the drop of a centigrade. Fleece still rolls back and forth across the beds. Late Friday evening, venturing out after the coop meeting to re-cover the chervil, asparagus shoots peeped at me over the soil surface parapet.  More rummaging in the dusk for rolls of fleece. Sane people would be driven to distraction by all this to-ing and fro-ing. But you have to laugh, the sky was a picture.

The deep winter mulching of the asparagus beds now seems a myth-like memory. At the time, feeding organic matter to beds showing no signs of life – death beds – seemed as much a faith-based ritual as a horticultural task. Of course, it’s both. Miracles are a fact of life. Kneeling before the soil, the spears of Gjimlin (our Dutch cultivar) point straight up, directing your eyes to the patient sky.

Early London asparagus on the stalls at the weekend, we had the last laugh. Out loud. With the land.

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