And they’re off! The garden has updated its status to “In Full Swing”. On the days our watering cans and compost bays are half empty, this means our beds lie a mess of winning weeds; when they’re half full, the crops advance to the foreground, brimming with vitality and the promise of imminent abundance: this is the best place to be.
For the last six weeks on Tuesdays and Fridays, salads, fresh herbs, rhubarb and asparagus have filled the crates that have filled the crater that is the Harvest Dispatch zone of the warehouse. The tomatoes have green fruits already; the squash have gone out, their crazy tendril-driven aventure launched; and red-ripe strawberries will arrive in a few more hours of pure bright sunlight. In the Old Kitchen Garden, it will be the Year of the Brassicas: Martin and I spent the last day of the last dry spell rotavating out strips for these in the clover/ trefoil/ nettle sward. It leaves it looking like a land of green mohicans, an effect not expected but one I’m quite pleased with. Punk never died: its DIY ethos has had a lasting impact on alternative culture, I don’t believe OrganicLea would have happened without it…
…Which would have made my days in May quite a bit less blustering but irrevocably less beautiful. At this time, running alongside the garden’s fulsome To Do List of sowing, potting up, planting out, earthing up, weed crisis management, not panicking and reassuring each other, we have our season of plant sales, which account for roughly one-third of our propagation work. It’s an extra burden to be lifted lightly, for there’s something magic about plant stalls. On a couple of Wednesday afternoons I’ve glimpsed a great huddle around the plant sales trolley, bubble-wrapped in the kind of hushed reverence normally reserved for new-born babies or priceless antiques. Loading the fragile pots of life onto our electric float for delivery into the heart of the borough, I feel like something akin to a horticultural Securicor Man. Like the veg that joins them, only more so, these plants have an extraordinary journey ahead of them: They will be dispersed across gardens, allotments, grow-bags in yards and window boxes on balconies; many will become a symbolic totem of summer, many will make the hard cityscape practically yield.
And here’s the thing: in our late capitalist society, for the most part people are no longer being asked to produce anything, but rather seek precarious employment and housing at the whim of an inflated, nebulous financial “industry”. Yet, contrary to what the architects and preachers of this system dictate, the peasant mode of production is not extinct, but experiencing a renaissance, as Jojo Tulloh, author of The Modern Peasant, outlined in the annual Spring Lecture at our last Open Day. In London today, as many people are involved in subsistence or small-scale food growing and preparation as ever: the Way Back to The Garden remains well trod.
Our little tomato plants are Way Markers. Bless them.