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May 2021 Column

I forget how busy May is and how good it feels. I have a long task list and an optimistic attitude and this year, the task list is not causing palpitations. I have a new regime. Reader, let me share with you the benefit of my new found wisdom.

A little background for context. In the past, May would overwhelm me. It is the busiest month in the garden. We are still sowing seeds, and have been doing so every few weeks since February. There is pricking out, potting on, hardening off, planting out and with the flower season in full flow, cutting flowers, arranging and delivering. It is hard to know what is the priority is and whether it will all get done. And then there is the weather to consider. Even until just a few days ago we were having dawn frosts which will finish off trays of tender plants. I would panic and dither, spotting other urgencies in the garden like a child in a sweet shop and with just as exhausting consequences if you tried everything on offer!

And what has changed all this? Batch gardening! Like batch cooking, but gardening. Not revolutionary, but I’m on a search for some kind of enlightened flow in tasks. That evasive balance; and I may have found it.

I may have mentioned once or twice that we have begun gardening to the biodynamic calendar. I have wanted to explore this way of gardening for a long time, but like learning about anything new, I find I need to feel my way, a little at a time to absorb and allow the new information to percolate.

So far we have found our seedlings and plants to be very successful and when we have sown seeds on ‘unfavourable’ days, there really has been a difference in the results. Significant differences. I am also learning a lot about soil health, and some real ‘a huh’ moments joining up dots in traditional techniques and approaches making how we do things much more obvious and easy. More about this another time as I explore this on our own plots.

But what about this batch gardening? Maria Thuns calendar only serves to reinforce the idea that ‘to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose’ (Ecclesiastes 3) By following the calendar with dedication, this simple reorientation of my approach has had ground shifting results, if only in my enjoyment!

You see, I had in the past held the golden to do list as my higher power. It led me. Now my calendar tells me when is favourable and when it isn’t, I can without guilt, in fact, with a slight smugness (I am aware the pendulum can swing too far over. Bear with my beginners mindset) I can go about my tasks relaxed knowing that the tray of seeds can’t be pricked out until Saturday when the transplanting period begins again. That ebb and flow, the balance between effort and toil in the garden then pulling back. Breathing and working in the studio on things like this writing, planning, day to day ‘business’. It really does feel like a tidal rhythm and for good reason. I feel a gentle push and a pull between the macro and micro efforts within these spaces. I know I only have 12 or 13 days of so of transplanting and that is plenty. I feel I can only plan around ‘fortnights’ naturally anyway. The rhythm of this within the month, within the season, it’s working really well. Knowing that it is a ‘barren day’ (from the farmers almanac) does away with that exhausting doubt when surrounded by bursting trays and weeds to hoe and replacing that with a 'knowingness'

that I am doing exactly the right thing by doing nothing at all.

I think the transfer of energy between us, plants and space is palpable and I am sure our seedlings and plants are doing much better with that approach which is at once both structured and ridged yet with more relaxing results. Finally I can feel what visitors feel in this space. If that isn’t a good reason to try it yourself, then I don’t know what is.

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