This week I bought three bulbs of organic garlic from my local supermarket.
I can see you shaking your heads and looking puzzled: "Isn't this supposed to be a blog about growing your own? Why just last week, didn't she swear off supermarkets forever? Is she back in the grip of Satan again? Did I miss the memo?"
Yes. Yes. No. And... er.. no.
Between then and now you would have found me prone under a full hundred-weight of seed catalogues. I hadn't slept in about three days. My family lodged a missing person's complaint. Somewhere underneath all those full colour, glossy pages of dreams, you'd have heard me muttering "hollyhocks" and "carrots" over again and making little spring frog noises.
The planning stage had begun.
Now, the important thing to remember here is that I know absolutely nothing at all about gardening; I once accidentally set fire to a pot plant. That's been the extent of my relationship with what I like to call "the green things". As a vegan - someone most people assume lives on moonbeams and bark - you'd think I'd be more in tune with flora and whatnot.
And now I'm wading through catalogue after catalogue of seeds, and looking at every website I can find trying to figure out what I'm supposed to be putting out there. I guessed I had to start somewhere. The exciting thing about garlic is that each clove makes a new bulb - you pop it in the soil, look after it, and a new bulb sprouts up in its place. There's no pesky germination under a dome, no hardening in or planting off, or whatever the terminology is (I still don't know it), and yet something happens at the end of it all.
"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Lao-Tzu
I was given the best piece of advice on gardening recently by the wonderfully enthusiastic Paul Richens of Blue Dome Synergies in the UK; grow what you like to eat. There's no sense in sweating over a patch of lettuce if you can't stand the stuff. With that in mind, I looked at the seed catalogues again and circled everything I liked the look of; carrots, courgettes and soy beans, basil, thyme and oregano, nasturtiums, violets and lavender. And a few more besides.
I must and shall have this plant
Now, I'm aware that every gardening site is currently screaming that it's February and everything has to be sown NOW. I'm also aware that I don't know how much weight my balcony can take, or what containers I can grow things in - more about that next week, as I aim to use as much recycled material as possible in my urban jungle.
Right now, I have three bulbs of garlic and a sense of purpose - it's a start.
Here are some websites that I've found especially useful this week:
- Life on the Balcony is a wonderful resource for the Sky Gardeners among us
- You Grow Girl is run with joy and enthusiasm and is full of information
- My Folia is a social networking site for gardeners with a buddy system, forums and a way to follow the progress of your garden with other gardeners around the world