I once spoke in a debate against the motion “a garden is a paradise but gardening is purgatory”. I’m pretty sure that most allotment plot-holders will agree with me that visiting beautiful parks and gardens is enjoyable but the real pleasure comes from getting one’s hands dirty in the soil. Different activities have their seasons. It’s that time of year when weeds seem to grow faster than I can fling them into the compost heap. I’m looking out for signs of germination in recently planted rows of peas and hoping the mice haven’t discovered them first.
My neighbour, Charles Fraser, whose garden at Shepherd House, Inveresk, always looks immaculate, agrees with me that so much of the enjoyment of gardening comes not from the end result but the process involved in getting there. Faith Raven, whose garden at Ardtornish (www.ardtornishgardens.co.uk) I am so fond of, writes that gardening is “a creative satisfying activity”. They are both so right.
It’s a mystery to me that there are books and magazine articles devoted to shortcuts for quick results and garden centres are full of gizmos that promise to make things easier. Gardening is not a household chore like dusting where I’m one of the first to fall for any gadget which might make things less tedious.
Sometimes, when the weather is just right, an element of urgency to get seeds planted creeps in and, later on, to harvest fruit before it goes to waste. Then there’s a bit of a rush to make sure everything is going to be all right while I go on holiday. But for most of us, hurrying through allotment activities is not what we do. When an unexpected free day presents itself, I’m sure I’m not alone in grabbing the opportunity for more time on my plot. Glancing round our site on any typical day, I can usually see someone sitting down and just taking delight in being there. A bit of blue sky always helps but fine weather is not a pre-requisite. Time seems to stand still and it can be nearly dark before some of us down tools and head for home.
Returning with fresh produce is just one part of the satisfaction of having an allotment. Appreciating how much I enjoyed the journey to that point is just as important. It’s no wonder that health professionals recognise the contribution that having an allotment can make to our general wellbeing. n