Croftless Crofter: Nic Goddard

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I had my first outside lunch of the year last week, sitting on the decking in the sunshine.

I’ve even had the door open a few times this month, too, letting the sound of the outside drift in and enjoying the fresh air.

As I write this though it is blowing a hoolie. The rain is drumming on the windows and the fire is lit. March is a bit like a toddler – full of extremes, blowing hot and cold, sunshine and frosts.

There is no doubt though that spring is in the air. The birds know as they begin to pair up and forage for nesting materials. I saw the first bumble bee of the year last week and the extra daylight at the start and end of each day is a reassuring sign of warmer days on the way.

Sitting on the decking with my lunch reminded me of all the things I could be getting on with in the garden, of course. The daffodils are already up, along with some unplanned crocuses which must have rolled away when I was wrapping up the bulbs and fallen in a muddy patch.

The raised beds need weeding and I’ve bought my first couple of bags of compost ready to start sowing some seeds under cover. Empty loo roll cardboard tubes are once again gathering ready to make tiny seed pots rather than being used as fire starters and after losing most of last year’s strawberry crop to mice, I am eyeing up a length of unused guttering in the shed with a plan to make a strawberry planter to raise up above mice and chickens.

Amid all of my planning, and with an awareness that only about half of what I envisage and hope for ever actually comes to fruition in the garden, I have also been inspired by an article I read online about unplanned gardening too. The author was reminding those of us who have a habit of squirreling away old seeds that their viability drops off and they are less likely to germinate with every passing season.

Like all gardeners I am guilty of stashing dusty, half opened, often unidentifiable seeds in envelopes each year. The notion of an unplanned planting really appealed to me.

The idea is to gather and mix up all of those seeds which are past their prime, soak them overnight to boost their germination chances, then mix them with some good potting compost and put them somewhere warm and sunny in trays to be tended. Or you could roll them into small balls ready to be lobbed into bare patches of ground as seed bombs.

You can then choose how much or little assistance you give your experimental crops – an empty corner of the garden or a pot, thinned and weeded, watered and fed or left entirely to their own devices. You could keep a watchful eye and harvest anything
you were 100 per cent certain was edible or leave them to pollinators and see if anything self seeds to carry on the legacy of your liberation of the seeds into the wild.

I love the idea that with a bit of neglect something beautiful may happen, just like my escaped crocus bulbs which sprang up to surprise me and remind me that nature has a wonderful way of blooming and being beautiful, and that often the best help we can give it is to simply back off and leave it alone.

I’ll still be planting my peas, tomatoes and salad leaf seeds though, along with plenty of
pollinator-friendly flowers. I’ve got plenty more outside lunches planned in the months ahead and eating my own produce while sitting amid the flowers makes them all the nicer.