Les Indispensables (124 days to go…)

by Max Akroyd

The new imperative has attached itself to the sowings. In previous years I’d sow lots of things – far more than my old allotment of ground could support – out of an ill-defined sense of necessity. A similar instinct drove me to accumulate books about pigs even though I wore a suit and worked in an office all day.

This year, there’s a more assertive inner voice to be heard, saying: “grow this or go hungry come June”. As a direct result, things that can’t be put in the soil now must get growing out of it. This week it’s the potatoes getting the chitting kick start: Amandine, Bintje and Mona Lisa. You’ll note reliability of yield rather than arcane splendour guided my choice this year!

I’ve dug trenches sufficient for about 200 seed potatoes thus far. I reckon this family could comfortably eat about 3000 spuds in a year. So, clearly, I’m not done yet… It’s that kind of scary arithmetic which compels me to treat the working day a lot more methodically too. This would have been a very dull thought once upon a time, but I’ve discovered nothing in gardening is as dreary as failure.

Between the animals’ morning and evening meals (they’re getting appreciably further apart now) I am committed to hour-and-a-half stints of trenching, strimming and cultivating. Once the time allocated to walking in an out of the tool shed collecting things I’ve forgotten, and occasionally subsiding into an exhausted heap, is taken into account, the whole day is almost done. No matter: steady progress is where it’s at and the field and the gardener are starting to shed some of their autumnal flab.

Of course, the approaching need for grass to be mowed and weeds to be hoed will soak up much of the advantage of the longer days. But retaining a semblance of January’s firm grip on Nature’s leash is my aim for this year. If I can only hold on tight while she’s tugging away like crazy in April, I’ll deem the back spasms which shout at me in the middle of the night a small price to pay.

So a little onion which you can sow now and eat on June 1st is the very definition of indispensable around here. Food’s overgrowth of complexity – commodities, supply chains, packaging, RPI etc. – is irrelevant. Each coal-black seed will hopefully form the basis of a meal. Quite clear and simple, at last.