The Lord God planted a garden in Eden…and there he placed the human being he had formed…And the Lord God placed the human being in the garden to tend it and to care for it. (Genesis 2:8, 9, 15)
The months of May and June place huge demands on the gardener. Fortunately, we’ve been enjoying unusually (for Cumbria) warm, dry days – until yesterday and today, when much needed heavy rains have been falling, filling up the becks and water tubs, and hopefully encouraging everything into abundant growth, veg and fruit I mean, not just the weeds.
We’d been on the allotment list for a couple of years, since moving to live in the town full time, and had heard that there’s a six-year wait to get a plot. So we were delighted and most grateful when a couple of friends came to the top of the list and asked if we would like to share. Yes please! They get our support and advice (which they need, being very new to gardening), and we get the chance to get our hands dirty. And there’ll be someone around to water and pick when we’re away in August.
The early months were extremely hard work, as the plot had been rather neglected and was terribly overgrown. But we gradually cleared away the debris of long grass and weeds – and the remains of a collapsed greenhouse – and literally unearthed a system of beds. Black currant and gooseberry bushes, raspberry canes and rhubarb appeared. Free gifts from the previous holder! But the rest is up to us. We’ve planted/sown onions and shallots, parsnips, spinach and beetroot, potatoes, peas and various beans, broccoli and cauliflowers and sprouts (surplus plants gratefully received from a neighbour), courgettes and pumpkins…
We’re getting to know loads of new people. There’s an amazing community spirit on the allotments, with lots of swapping and sharing of plants and produce. Is there scope for a ‘Fresh Expression’? Allotment Church?
I’m loving being back on my knees, weeding and planting. A truly spiritual exercise. I feel happier and closer to God on the allotment than almost anywhere else (including church!). These verses from Rudyard Kipling express it well (though I am less than eager to engage in killing slugs – we’re hoping frogs and toads from ponds and undergrowth will do that work for us, more ‘naturally’):
Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing ‘Oh, how beautiful’ and sitting in the shade,
While better men than we go out and start their working lives
At grubbing weeds from gravel paths with broken dinner knives.
There’s not a pair of legs so thin, there’s not a head so thick,
There’s not a hand so weak and white, nor yet a heart so sick,
But it can find some needful job that’s crying to be done,
For the Glory of the Garden glorifieth every one.
Then seek your job with thankfulness and work til further orders,
If it’s only netting strawberries or killing slugs in borders;
And when your back stops,aching and your hands begin to harden,
You will find yourself a partner in the Glory of the Garden.
Oh, Adam was a gardener, and the God who made him sees
That half a proper gardener’s work is done upon his knees,
So when your work is finished, you can wash your hands and pray
For the Glory of the Garden, that it might not pass away!
And the Glory of the Garden, it shall never pass away!
(From Rudyard Kipling, ‘The Glory of the Garden’)