Dear friend and grower,
Having worked with plants (and people) for some time now, I can feel your excitement for the end of this rainy and sometimes snowy January and your desire to start a new growing year.
Everybody is dreaming of a vibrant Spring to come, where we can enjoy our green space filled with blooms and vegetables. Even for beginners the desire to get going is strong. You might have spotted some new flowers in a field and thought: That’s it! Spring is here, it’s time to sow seeds and start off new plants.
But…before you get going, there are a few considerations to make while we’re still in February. I think I ought to temper your “green enthusiasm” a bit in order to grow a deeper sense of what is sustainable gardening and what is not.
Let’s start with sowing. February is usually a rainy, windy, and cold month, not really ideal for gardening outdoors. You can enjoy and observe nature while refreshing your lungs for a walk outside, but it seems a little extreme to engage in gardening activities while it is freezing cold and wet outside, not too productive either! Lack of visible green growth or not being able to complete your tasks because of the weather may make you feel very frustrated. This can easily dampen your spirit and affect your plans and expectations negatively, and that’s what we don’t want!
Then I see a lot of pressure for starting indoor sowing this month, and again I would be asking myself: is it really a sustainable move? Would it be wise to anticipate nature’s pace and to spend energy by using lamps and heating matts for growing our seeds in a not-so-sunny spot in the house? Does the cost of those devices really support the idea of producing more “affordable” and “zero-impact” food? Any of these artificial apparatus has a cost on our pockets and on our environment too – while they can be an appealing choice for many impatient gardeners, I’m not totally sure they would be essential for growing happy and healthy plants.
WHAT ABOUT THE SEEDS?
Let’s suppose instead you have an ideal, sun-kissed, and warm windowsill and you won’t need any artificial light for germinating your seeds. Are you sure you can manage your seedlings for at least 3 months before moving them outside? It would be a shame if, after a few weeks, your plants become leggy and weak, and you have to start sowing all over again. I know they are just seeds and they are sold in large quantities and often quite cheaply, but again I ask: Is it really sustainable? Considering the majority of seeds are sold by big corporations that get those seeds from underpaid labour around the world, we should really rethink our approach to these resources and give them new value, possibly without wasting them.
Writer and food activist Sara Limback has largely talked about this topic and seeds sovereignty – I’d really recommend taking a look at her Instagram profile to find out more.
Having considered all of this, I want to assure you that there is a time for everything – gardening is a 365 days experience, and we are not undertaking this month by postponing some growing. We are actually making a more conscious choice and learning how to have better green fingers. During this time we can browse seed catalogues, or organise a seed sharing exchange, planning what we can realistically grow, and collecting information about the plants we like. You can find a lot of useful tips on how to grow your plants and food here on the Wen’s blog.
Gardening goes beyond the hands on stuff – it’s also reading, observing, and going along with nature.
So, let’s hold on just a little longer, my grower friends, and everything will come in time!
Best wishes for a greener future,
Clyo and the Green & Grow Team
CLYO PARECCHINI, LIVEWELL COORDINATOR
Clyo heads up Wen’s Live Well cooking and food growing courses in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Classes explore in a practical way how diet and lifestyles has an impact on the planet. Attendees learn and try new plant based recipes, spend time in the community garden and enjoy a delicious lunch.