New From Old

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”  – Arundhati Roy

 This week the smell of spring is unmistakable. A mild surprise, as there’s not been a “real” winter. There’s been plenty of weather alright, but that’s not quite the same thing. We’ve held back from resuming our weekly salad deliveries – they can only restart once a year – on the guestimate that, going on recent times, this land and its flora will be held in an icy grip at some point. If Jack Frost is still planning a visit, his fashionable lateness is now way beyond cool: crocuses are out, the dawn chorus are tuning up, and the overwintering rocket is going to flower, its frost protection fleece lying crumpled, barely worn, at its feet. It’s time we begun.


There is a freshness to everything now:  the resinous waft of the wood chip mulch laid down to protect the soft fruit; the clean slate of the black bare of just-planted artichoke bed;  the annual tidiness of the propagation benches. The ol’ garden is, of a sudden, new. This is The Thing about gardening: resurrection is not a utopia or a religious belief, it’s an event.  It happens once a year in a big way, with small revolutions occurring every month, week, day…


This month, in our crooked corner of this built-up city, I will be one of the thousands of new gardeners sowing new seeds. There are old and new volunteers helping to rekindle the growing season at Hawkwood, where our latest attractions include Jerusalem Drive, the Walthamstow Yellow Cress Welcome Bed, and an exploding World of Chillies. Some of these will join the hundreds more across the borough who now have access to an allotment. Waltham Forest has created 200 new food growing plots in the last year, and reduced the allotment waiting list dramatically, as part of its Food Growing Strategy. A lot more people are talking about food growing now, but as yet few local authorities have seen fit to exercise their statutory powers in support of local production.  I am proud of Waltham Forest, and OrganicLea’s small part in effecting the zeitgeist and the political will.


It’s time to get out there, effect small changes.  Create the new garden, either literally, turning run-off hard landscape into a porous plant paradise, a flood of relief; or reclaiming and redeeming the battered waste ground which last year you once grew. And from that garden we climb, tendril by curly tendril, onwards and outwards: conversations over the allotment fence; swapping seeds with the world at the community garden;   walking straight past Tesco with community-grown, wildlife-friendly veg. Gardens are a retreat from the world, and also a reconstruction of it; a Spring board to a redeemed economy based on nature and nurture; to a renewed architecture – beautiful, socially useful. Worms turn, badger crossings, land liberated.


Time to pick up the trowel you threw in last Winter of Discontent, and Dig In for victory.


 “Whether you have never gardened before in your life, or are a gardener of fifty years’ standing, makes no difference: stop reading this and get outside. Happy new garden”  –  Monty Don