Notes from a compulsive gardener

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This winter’s been harder than usual. I’m pretty sure we’ve never had a January this gloomy. I’m almost certain eleven o’clock in the morning never looked so much like five in the afternoon – and I’m willing to bet money that there’s never been such a long stretch of days without seeing the sky behind the clouds ever on record, ever.

This is because I spent the whole of 2017 outside. And I don’t just mean the summer days, the balmy evenings, the glistening mornings – I mean every day. I set myself some goals, and I went at it like it was all that mattered. And I think, for a while there at least, it probably was. So January now feels like the greyest, the most claustrophobic, the longest time without being able to get out and do in living memory…

You see, gardening isn’t just about planting things and hoping they’ll grow. It’s nothing to do with mowing the lawn to keep up a neat appearance for the neighbours. It’s a deep thing, a rooty thing, a living thing that once it’s got tendrils around you, you just don’t feel that motivated to get untangled.

There’s a lot of complexity to the relationship between a gardener and their garden, and I spend a lot of my down-time trying to figure it out. It breaks your back some days, so you sit with a mug and a woolly jumper that’s seen better days and you look at the things you’ve done, and the many, many things you’re yet to get started on, and you think about it. There’s a sense of progression and purpose that’s harder to mark elsewhere in life. Not all relationships follow these wonderful rhythms that keep you on track the way the seasons do. Not all careers offer you up thrilling new challenges and reliable, welcome returns, almost on the dot on a certain day of the year. Nothing I know of gives you quite the same sense of… I did that… that plating up a dinner made entirely from living things you grow from microscopic seeds so many weeks ago…

These are the notes from someone who can’t help themselves. Which is lucky, because they also happen to come from a clay field in Sussex, where nothing is easy.