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Greenhouse Goddess

Greenhouse Goddess

For some reason, during this warm Spring of 2021, for the very first time in my life thus far, I decided to try my hand at greenhouse gardening. Yes, you read that right – gardening! I have indeed never been the type of person you’d see in any kind of outdoor appropriate attire, and certainly not with anything resembling a trowel in my hand. Something changed. I’d say for an unknown reason, but I don’t like to paint a picture of me just blundering along doing things haphazardly without a thought process, so I suppose I need to consider the reasons why. Maybe it sprang from the pandemic and the repercussions of being in a long lockdown. Many people, including myself, connected with nature on a far deeper level than before. Daily countryside walks were no longer a pleasant option, rather a vital form of survival to escape the four wall cage of home for your permitted hour. We appreciated our own gardens more, however humble a plot they may be. And gruelling masked visits to the mile queue supermarkets, only to find empty shelves, left one wishing we could all be a little more self sufficient in these times of crisis. Amid all this I came to imagine what it would be like to grow the things I ate. Mentally, I began to compile a list. What did I eat? Other than Dairy Milk and Walkers Cheese and Onion crisps. What food did I consume that I could actually grow at home? Chilis for my curries. Herbs for my pastas. Tomatoes and cucumbers for my salads. I remembered I had once grown a sporadic wig of cress on a wet piece of kitchen towel across the windowsill, but that was as green fingered as I’d ever got. In fact last Christmas my friend had bought me a fairy garden, where all you needed to do was sprinkle some seeds in a miniature terracotta pot house and remember to water it every day. The picture on the front of the cardboard box assured it would then yield breathtaking results. Mine didn’t. Not so much as a tiny shoot. I ended up aborting the failed experiment and instead used the bone dry pot as a rockery ornament. I’m sure the spiders and earwigs were grateful of the new pad. And now I was thinking of greenhouses to grow actual vegetables in. And maybe some pretty blooms. Like sunflowers and cosmos. Of course for this new venture I would have loved a tall, sprawling state of the art glass and brick construction. A sparkling temple in the back garden. The kind you have enough room to comfortably swing a cat in, and can style a bistro table and chairs amid your perfect rows of greenery. You know, eat a croissant, sip a vanilla latte, while you watch it all grow. But then I started to research the cost of these kings of the greenhouse world, and I hit the hard ground of reality with a deafening thump. I could have bought a small flat in my home city of Sheffield for the same price. Or at least a caravan. My glass palace greenhouse was out of the question. At least for now.

As a beginner I decided to first see how I fared with a modest ‘walk-in, steel frame, polyethylene cover’ first, and then if I actually ended up enjoying using it, I might invest in a more splendid version later. I do have a habit of getting all enthusiastic about something or other, and then the novelty eventually wearing thin. But a day or two was all it took for my new calling to take fruition. I am exceptionally lucky that my knack of anchoring the Law of Attraction never fails, and after visualising the ideal greenhouse, my fiancé’s parents produced one for me and the gardening adventure began. The next thing I knew, I was ignoring the copies of Vogue and Elle on the supermarket shelves, and instead reaching for Grow Your Own and Country Living. These enticing glossy magazines came with free seed packets – everything from butternut squash to purple sprouting broccoli- which I lined up to admire, and then began to do proper grown-up research on what apparatus I needed and how to give it a fighting chance of survival once planted.

Most of you know how much I love old bookshops. Well now I was in my element trawling second hand charity dens for any treasures discarded there about gardening. I found so many wonderful greenhouse bibles at such bargain prices. I was reading about pricking it out and potting it on. I was learning how to propagate and germinate. I now knew who Monty Don was and watched his videos without yawning. I even read an Alan Titchmarsh book which wasn’t his biography about the Queen. She’s my fashion icon incase you’re wondering. And it didn’t stop there. With all this came the essential gardening clothing. Green waterproof Wellington boots. Green waxed farmer’s jacket. Padded Barber coats – an assortment of. Quilted tweed gilets – a larger assortment of. I bought one flower patterned gilet which my family howled with laughter at and said it made me look like a little old lady. Well they still say that and I still wear it. It’s the height of granny chic and I feel like the coolest gardening chick on the planet in it, ok!

Fast forward. It was a slow process. For a long time nothing happened and I mean, nothing at all. I wondered if I was doing something wrong. I rang my fiancé’s parents who are both keen, talented gardeners, and asked why there were no signs of juicy red tomatoes in the juicy red tomato seedling tray. They reassured me. Just be patient and keep on watering – but not over watering – every day, and it would soon pay off. For once I managed to execute said patience and sure enough, my little seedlings began to sprout.

That thrill when you see the first sight of green pushing through is amazing. Never did I foresee myself getting so excited over soil and leaves, but I was fascinated by the process. Every day I would rush with my pretty rose gold watering can to check on my babies and give them whatever they needed. As they began climbing to heights that required cane supports and string, I realised how rewarded I had been by my simple labour. It was addictive and as more things grew, I wanted to keep on planting more and more. Sunflowers. Strawberries. Spinach. Lettuce. Onions. Cucumber. Coriander. Mint. Basil. Thyme.

Now in late September as we come towards the end of Summer and begin to brace ourselves for the snuggly Autumn season, I physically cannot step inside my little greenhouse anymore to get to everything, because the inside is like a jungle. It’s mainly the tomatoes and the courgettes that have taken over. It resembles a man eating plant horror movie as they strive to conquer the world. They are pushing their uppermost heads against the restrictive polyethylene ceiling. I realise I have learnt a lot over the past six months. Through the things that have worked, like my sea of carrots, and the things that have not, like my dry shrivelled parsnips. Next Spring I’ll be far more selective about what I plant, rather than just tipping seeds everywhere there’s a gap. But the wonderful realisation is that I shall indeed be doing the whole thing over again next year. I have not tired of it and I have found that I am actually quite good at it. If we go into a zombie apocalypse I can help my family survive for a little time with healthy fruit and vegetables by our very own back door. Maybe if I see through another year, and then another year after that, I’ll be allowed to start looking at the expensive sparkling temples again. One can wish. And visualise. Just look what happens when you do.


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