Here on Pig Row the sun has gotten hold of the soil in all three gardens. In the meadow the grass is now a lush green and arching over in subtle wands; in the allotment the weeds have a daily haircut from a sharpened hoe. The downside is that the fruit & herb garden has become a spoil heap, there visitors find heaps devoted to dug out stone, large enough for the Mayans to get excited about. In a corner that has spread out from the house, there are the kind of spoil heaps that have nothing to do with gardening. These are building debris hills, when they first appeared they were gentle mole hills that could be flattened with a shovel, a quick thwack and they were gone. Several days later they became foothills, the kind you wander through with a picnic, your family and a small dog. Today, I had to climb over them, use a pickaxe, Kendal mint cake and a map. This is the bug bear of moving, whilst gardeners are outside, inside there are builders plotting ways in which to destroy, compact and demolish the earth nearest the house.
It is a problem with new housing, underneath all those fine new lawns you will find building rubble, teabags and assorted paraphernalia that only a builder can leave behind. If you have moved into a new house on a new estate, you have my sympathies and my only piece of advice is to dig, add plenty of manure and don’t get too upset about what you dig up. One friend of mine found a small digger, a wheel barrow and a concrete mixer. It would be funny if it was not true. Another friend of mine found a hole, which went into a basement from a building that once stood there. He went inside puzzled, scratching his head. Next morning he came out to find thirty foot of his garden had vanished into that old forgotten basement. We never know what is under our feet.
At Pig Row I have removed stone and more puzzling, glass panes, handmade nails, cans of gunk with the word gunk written on the side, cans of laxatives, metal pipes and coal. I’d rather not think about how all these things are linked.
As the rubble mounts I move in with my own spade and save any perennials I can and move them up to the allotment. I now have a bed of Russell Mixed Lupin (www.dobies.co.uk), racing away by the first flowers of the strawberries. Planted in February of this year and promising an early crop of one the best crops to come out of the garden. If you have never grown a strawberry, do. There is no comparison to shop bought ones. There are varieties in my garden that will never appear on any supermarket shelf due to the fact that they are easy to perish in transit. Marshmarvel, Marshmello and Amelia (www.marshalls-seeds.co.uk). They just sing a dollop of cream and a pot of tea, and a tower of scones. Sod tennis. Eat the strawberries you’ve grown and you’ll be delighted. You’ll boast to your friends. Those growing spoil heaps that threaten the boundaries of your allotment seem to dim when you sink your teeth into a freshly picked strawberry.
The spoil from the building work won’t be wasted and won’t go to landfill. It has been set aside for paths and footings for offices in the meadow. On the outskirts of the meadow, my wife’s office has landed like a flat packed Ikea rocket. You can see the crash marks, where my wife, I and a patient father in law took part in the longest running impression of the Chuckle Brothers: to me, to you. It would have made it into the Guinness Book of Records but was disallowed due to the amount of swearing, most of it coming from my direction.
Thank God it wasn’t raining.
My neighbours whisper about coming storms, predict that the willows will soon show their underbellies and tell us that rain is coming. Kill joys.
As a gardener I want rain. As a gardener I want clear days in which I can get the digging done and the planting underway. It is a quandary. It is a pain. I have planned ahead though and I have six full water butts nestled around the garden and at some point in the building work I will go to my wife, cap in hand, and ask for a standpipe halfway up the garden. There may be some swearing until I point out that she can fill her kettle from it. There is nothing like solving a problem with the quickness of making a cup of tea.
The prep work I did with filling the beds with manure, a task that I am still doing thanks to the late sun and the awful winter, means that the plants are not suffering. They are thriving. Pig Row awakes.