While engaged in a tour of Cork’s English Market as part of the food history course I’ve been doing, I fell into conversation with Damhnait, a classmate. She told me she’d had some success growing her own vegetables and promised to bring some seeds to the next class for me.
Fair play to her, she did, and in doing so, rather challenged my all-mouth-and-no-trousers approach to growing my own food (which has so far resulted only in bounteous parsley and rosemary, despite paying them no attention whatsoever). Seeing as she had gone to the trouble of bringing me seeds, I was going to have to go to the trouble of planting them.
I had compost and a very old wooden-handled spade so what more did I need? Seed trays, so I got those in the garden centre, along with a nice array of herb seeds.
The sun was shining, the birds were singing and it was with great confidence that I began to dig a seed bed. Within 30 seconds, I had broken the spade. I struggle to open jars so it wasn’t a demonstration of superhuman strength on my part. It was just that the spade was even more elderly than it looked.
I persevered and managed to create a bed of about 2ft by 3ft, in which I planted sage and dill. Exhausted by the effort of digging with a broken spade and a hand trowel, I parked the whole seed bed venture and decided to sow my seed trays instead.
So now, in what we grandly refer to as ‘the conservatory’ although it is more of a lean-to than anything, I have five compost-filled trays, two with basil, one with mint, one with thyme and one shared by oregano and marjoram. I also have a tray of french bean seedlings, kindly provided by Damhnait.
If any of them result in something edible, I will be both impressed and astounded.
Yesterday, we bought a new spade. So I am here writing this, rather than outside, planting the rocket and parsley I bought and the peas, salad onions, lettuce and beetroot passed on by Damhnait.
She also gave me pumpkin and swede seeds but there’s not much point planting something we won’t eat. There were chicory seeds in her parcel too, neatly wrapped and labelled with instructions just as her other seeds were, but they are not to be planted until later in the summer.
I could continue musing but I suppose the garden won’t dig itself. If any of these seeds produce so much as a leaf, I shall report back.
By the way, Damhnait also rears a few lambs on her half-acre every year. I’m not going to follow suit although I rather like the idea of being the only shepherdess in Cork city. Bo Peep, eat your heart out.