Digging (c) Rianne Mason

March garden journal

Gardening has provided a much-needed sense of connection in a time of isolation. I’ve been identifying seeds, learning about right angles, double digging, mulching gooseberry shrubs, experimenting with micro greens and preparing my greenhouse.

I’ve also done a lot of reflection during these unprecedented times, which I talk about at the end of the post if you get that far 🙂

Seed identification

Packets of seeds (c) Rianne Mason

My RHS practical course test was about identifying different seeds. At first I thought this was going to be quite difficult but I’ve learnt how beautiful and unique seeds are. I was able to identify all 10 types because they have distinct characteristics and I found myself falling in love with plants even more.

Marking out a shape on land

I think the last time I had to draw a rectangle with right angles was when I was 16 and doing my GCSEs. Again, it was the RHS course that got me demonstrating how to create a perfect circle and rectangle to mark out a shape on the ground.

If you don’t already know about the ‘3,4,5’ triangle it’s a pretty neat trick to have up your sleeve. It’s the logic that any triangle measuring 3 (e.g 30cm) on one side and 4 (e.g 40cm) on the other side must have a diagonal of 5 (e.g 50cm) if it’s a true right angle. This makes it very easy to confirm you have right angles.

Drawing a circle on the ground is easy too. You just need string, measured at half the diameter of your desired circle (e.g 1m if you want a diameter of 2m), attached to a stick. Fix the stick in the centre and walk around it, keeping your string straight to indicate where to mark the circle. We used stones.

Double digging (controversial!)

You must be able to demonstrate that you can double dig as part of the RHS practical course, and so we dag! It was definitely needed in this situation as we each have a raise bed that essentially turns soil into cement. We don’t have the luxury of time to use another method of introducing oxygen and organic matter into the soil.

I am aware, however, that double digging is almost a swear word in the field of permaculture (another area I’m studying). So this raised a few questions for me about the RHS course and what it should include. It’s times like this that Instagram and other social platforms are really useful as a tool to connect with others to ask questions. In this case I hopped on my Instagram feed to open a discussion.

Anyway, I can tell you that double digging is HARD WORK, especially in difficult soil. So if there is another way for you to improve your soil structure it’s worth trying it out.

Showing a gooseberry patch some love

Sadly, due to the corona virus, this was the last task I did at the Inspire Community Garden for a while.

Turns out gooseberry bushes are pretty prickly things to deal with. We took a couple out to give the patch more space and they looked great in their temporary pots. Then we had the honour of covering the patch with horse manure (I seem to be spending a lot of time with horse manure lately) and I was really pleasantly surprised by the smell. I actually found myself liking it!

I think this is because the manure I’ve worked with before hasn’t rotted down for very long, but when it’s had the time it needs it smells quite sweet. Honestly it does.

Experimenting with micro greens

As the panic buying and isolation has started it seems a good time to start growing things on your windowsill. I happened to get a newsletter from Milkwood who have a great video about growing your own micro greens.

I’ve had great success with lettuce and cress so far, which sprouted within a week. I used a shallow layer of compost in a seed tray, rather than a sheet of material, because that’s what we had available. It has felt great having something green and edible – even if it’s only small.

Now I’m starting to soak mung beans in a jar ready for sprouts. Wish me luck!

Preparing my relocated greenhouse

Soil (c) Rianne Mason

We’ve had a bit of a move around in the garden so my greenhouse is in a different location to last year, which means new soil! I had a great afternoon digging it over and crumbling it all up with my hands (it’s only a small patch). I never thought I’d get so excited about the ability to ‘crumble’ soil but after my experience with the ‘cement soil’ at the start of the month I was overjoyed.

I just kept crumbling!

I also found a chunk of charcoal which gave me flashbacks to my time at Daruma in Thailand and making biochar from bamboo. There was a lot of clay clods, which I was anticipating. Clay is heavy to dig but it’s great at retaining water so I don’t mind too much.

There’s nothing like spending a couple of hours squishing soil chunks, if you have access to any I highly recommend it for therapy.

Simply enjoying the sun

A garden (c) Rianne Mason

At this time of social isolation I think it’s even more important to simply enjoy the warmth of the sun on your face whenever you get the chance. It’s a reminder that we’re all living on this planet together and we’re pretty lucky to be here.

Something to consider…

I’d like to end this post with an extract from the magazine ‘Another Escape‘, issue 13. It’s part of an article that really made me stop in my tracks.

Rupert and Elle run Living Alive – a Certified B Corporation offering courses and workshops for businesses to gain transformation through the ‘awe’ of being with nature.

“Rupert: Our sun is in fact a star, just like any one of the 150-200 billion stars in our galaxy, the Milk Way, which is just one of the 100 billion galaxies in the known universe.

Elle: One thing that really helped me get my head around these mind-boggling numbers was this: for us to get to the nearest star in our galaxy, Proxima Centauri, which is 4.3 light years away, aboard the fastest spaceship humans have ever built, it would take 70,000-100,000 years – and that’s the nearest star to our sun, of all the thousands of stars you can see with the naked eye on a dark night.

Rupert: So here’s the thing: in all this incomprehensible vastness, somehow a unique set of conditions have made Earth the perfect place to harbour complex life. It’s just the right distance away from the sun; not too hot or cold, where water, which is fundamental to life, can form as a solid, liquid or gas; where the axial tilt of the planet gives us reliable seasons; with the moon that gives us tides and a magnetic field that protects against harmful rays from the sun. This is called the ‘Goldilocks effect’, where everything is just right.

Over four billion years of Earth’s history and against all the odds, life has emerged in all it’s diversity and complexity to the point where we are now.”

I wanted to end on this note because now, more than ever, you might find yourself with a bit of time on your hands. Time to simply stop and be with your thoughts. And now, more than ever, we are united on this fragile planet that needs us to listen.

We are a part of a system that took an incredible set of circumstances and billions of years to create, let’s take some time to re-connect to it, fall in love with it, and be in awe of it.

We’re all slowing down to help save lives and our daily habits have changed dramatically. This is our chance to re-think our lifestyles and consider how in tune they are with the well-being of Earth.

If you got this far, thanks for reading. I’m quite passionate about our super powers as human beings and all the good we can do for each other and all life on our blue marble.

I hope you all stay safe and find some sense of peace in this time of stillness.

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