Gardening Life Making

The plants, they need me.

OR: How my garden lifts my melancholia.

There’s a thing I’ve noticed, it’s that human beings need to be needed. Generally. I mean, not all humans. Over the last few years I’ve weaned myself off being needed by other people. My parents don’t need me, my friends (hopefully) don’t need me, and my two partners certainly don’t need me. It’s a very freeing place to be and it means you can direct your energies into making yourself happy, rather than feeling the pressure to make someone else happy.

Of course that’s what solo-poly and relationship anarchy is all about really, putting yourself first while being mindful of the feelings of others. I’m a huge advocate of reading up on these two styles of relationship. They aren’t for everyone wholesale, but you might find small parts that you want to take and enact in your own life. Relationship anarchy is as much about being loving and caring towards your friends as it is about sexual relationships.

But anyway, that’s beside the point. It’s my rough theory that humans need to be needed. Or they certainly usually want to be needed. In some way. But I orchestrated my removal from the ‘normal’ human structure of humans needing other humans – so where do I get my desire to be needed from now?

I’ve been reading up on how gardening can help beat depression recently. I don’t suffer from depression, but I am a very melancholic person by nature. Sometimes that manifests itself in a way that is similar to depression. I struggle to do basic tasks like cooking for myself, keeping things clean and tidy and I just get into a slump where I don’t want to do anything including hobbies that I love. Worst of all, it affects my freelance work. I know when I’m struggling and there’s nothing really I can do to get out of that cycle.

But for the last month – roughly since I came back from Paris – Adam and I have started keeping a garden. We don’t have much garden, about 35 square meters in total I guess with walls around it. It’s basically a small Victorian kitchen garden. Truth be told Adam isn’t that interested in actually doing the garden, but he seems interested in watching me do the garden and he’s very interested in the food that comes out of it.

Well, this is what it looks like so far.

2015-05-16 19.04.09

2015-05-16 19.04.20I know, it’s not much to look at. And that horrible shed needs the gutter replacing and the walls repainted. or I might just do away with the whole thing and look at some Modern shed designs to replace it instead. But anyway…

It’s frustrating to know that you need to help yourself, but you don’t know how to help yourself. There is always ‘good’ advice available like ‘why don’t you just get on with what you need to do?’ or ‘how about you go for a run?’ but believe me, if it was that simple then I wouldn’t have this problem. And it doesn’t help to tell me those things either particularly. In fact, it just reminds me how shit I’m being – and that’s not helpful to anyone.

Having a vegetable garden is, in many ways, a big decision. I mean, you can’t just plant your seeds and then leave them to grow. It doesn’t work like that. But if you’re putting any commitment into vegetable gardening as a hobby, then that’s what it is – a commitment. The plants, they need you. If you don’t pay them attention, then they will die. I mean sure, that’s not as bad as your dog dying if you don’t give it any attention – it’s a lot less serious than that. But the simple act of watering your plants daily is something that is easily incorporated into a regular routine and gives some semblance of worth to the daily grind.

And if you want to make sure that your plants don’t die, then you need to keep them away from the pests. Without even realizing it, some plants can attract insects, while others can keep bugs away. And if they find their way into your home, they may never leave. That happened to a friend of mine once. She planted an assortment of different plants and leaves and not long after they started to blossom into the beautiful creations they are, she noticed that her house was swarmed with bugs. It was a good job she contacted a professional pest control company like as they were able to get rid of them as quickly as they made an appearance. Luckily, her pants and flowers were unscathed but this just goes to show what can happen if you don’t give them the proper attention they deserve.

The best thing about the garden is the way that working on it when you’re feeling good feels like storing help away for when things get bad. Sowing seeds, potting them on and planting them out is storing away good feelings for later. Being able to think back about being more motivated when you’ve got no motivation at all is surprisingly helpful when you sit down and see what you’re surrounding with – the results of your earlier hard work.

Gardens are very sensual (I said sensual… not sexual…) because they fill so many senses at once. Sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. If one of your senses isn’t working so well because you’re in a slump it feels like you can kickstart it by being somewhere that appeals to the other senses. That’s basically what I’m doing with that seating area in the picture above. It’s slowly becoming surrounded by plants that not only look beautiful, but give off scent and they can almost all be eaten. There’s something quite rewarding about taking a pot of hot water, in my Stump teapot for preference to that coffee table and then picking herbs and flowers from within arms reach to put straight into the pot – mixing combinations at will for an amazing pot of tea. It’s become my preferred way to chill out now if writers block is setting in.

Rachel Kelly wrote an article in the Telegraph in 2014 that basically says alot of the things that I feel. Your plants need you, but they only need you in small, manageable tasks. Pulling out some weeds in a bed. Potting on a few seedlings. Watering the pots. All these things are so easily accomplished when you break them down into tiny little parts. And once you start it feels easier to keep on going – and before you know it you’ve been quite productive actually.

At this point I don’t really care if anything fruits. I know I might get blight on my tomatoes that will wipe out a good chunk of the harvest. I know I might lose my beans to the birds that we also encourage into the garden. I know that my Southern European herbs are currently crying because we just seem to have rain every day at the moment. But somehow it doesn’t really seem to matter.

Although the produce I do manage to get will increase the healing effect that my garden has. For the work doesn’t stop when you pick the vegetables and bring them into the kitchen. Then there is preserving to be done. Jams to be made, chutneys to simmer, and cordials to bottle. These things can’t wait, they have to be done. And I find that one of the best ways to get out of a slump. Having things that need to be done.

It’s good. Life is good.

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