The best foods are straight from the garden – they’re fresh and full of vitamins and minerals. Plus, you can be confident that there aren’t any mystery chemicals sprayed on your veggies when you grow them yourself.
Organic gardening involves using time-tested methods, such as crop rotation and healthy soils. These practices help keep plants strong and healthy, so they are better able to ward off pests and diseases.
Everything in the garden is not rosy. It’s not even green; it’s yellow or brown, or yellow with brown spots. It’s my third summer and it has all gone wrong. The various pollinator-friendly flower seeds I carefully planted and tended managed to produce the grand total of: one self-seeded weed. Any flowers that predated – and survived – my arrival have fallen over and are lolling on the ground. The apples all fell off the tree and are rotting in a wasp-infested heap that smells like a cider festival toilet. My sole success, a Central American vine, succumbed to some novel plague this week.
Worst of all were the tomatoes: one day fine (to my ignorant eye), the next, catastrophic blight. “All my precious ones,” I whispered, like a character from a Jacobean tragedy whose children have been murdered, clutching putrid brown bunches to my chest. That’s it for me and tomatoes: I can’t go through that again. Every time I go outside, something else has died. I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but my happy place now feels like a plague house (OK, fine, I do want to be overly dramatic).
I know peer-reviewed research overwhelmingly suggests gardening is good for mental health and wellbeing. Offering gentle physical activity and a grounding connection with nature, it is becoming a staple of social prescribing for precisely that reason. Gardening makes you feel good! Well, not me, not this year. On top of embarrassment at my ineptitude, I’ve experienced anxiety, disappointment, shame and self-loathing: all the good stuff. Plus, seething envy – why does no one talk about garden envy? Everyone is showing off perfect ripe tomatoes and multicoloured, blowsy dahlias on social media right now and I hate them.
A sensible woman would step away, wave a beatific hand at the chaos and murmur “rewilding”. This woman, sent spiralling by tomato grief, is seriously considering signing up for a horticulture course. I just want to put my hands in the earth without killing everything. That’s the thing about gardens: however problematic, they get their tendrils into you.