Jane has been kind enough to write up a ‘diary style’ report in the absence of any activity at the Club.
As I write this, the nation is currently under a government directive to ‘stay at home’ to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, the Prime Minister is in intensive care suffering from the virus, we cannot see friends and are only allowed out for essential supplies and daily exercise, many have been laid off work, furloughed or are working from home, some are having to completely self-isolate for 3 months and every day brings terrible news of virus related deaths across the world, as well as closer to home. It is unknown how long the restrictions will continue or whether they will need to be strengthened. The gardening club has cancelled all talks and events until September, including the May plant sale and the August show. Meanwhile, for those of us lucky enough to have the space to do so, gardening has been a welcome distraction from these dreadful events and many who don’t normally have the time to spend in their gardens are doing so, encouraged by the onset of spring and the recent good weather. Gardening is proving to be the perfect ‘stay at home’ activity: it is good exercise, is helpful in relieving stress and can keep you occupied for many hours.
However, even gardening has not been without its challenges. Getting hold of seeds, plants and compost is proving difficult because garden centres are not deemed to sell ‘essential goods’ and have had to close their doors. Mail-order seed companies have been inundated with orders, to the extent that they have closed their phone lines, there are queueing systems to get onto their websites and many products are out of stock. However, local garden centres have risen to the challenge and are now offering delivery services and I can only hope that their businesses survive through the ‘lock down’ at what would have been their busiest time of year. Luckily for gardening club members, most had their supply of seeds already because the club runs a 50% discount scheme, with orders being placed earlier in the year. And while everyone else was stock-piling toilet roll, I know of one canny gardener who was stock-piling compost and is now the envy of all her neighbours as they struggle to get hold of a bag!
Whilst we are currently allowed to venture out to buy food (unlike India where the lock-down is complete), it has put into focus our dependence on a fragile supply chain and has inspired many to start growing their own vegetables in order to be more self-sufficient. In my own garden, I am still harvesting purple-sprouting broccoli, kale, parsnips and leeks planted last year and still have some squash sitting in a cool room. Although the ‘hungry months’ are almost upon us, when last year’s vegetables have gone over and this years have not yet grown, many home-growers store their excess vegetables by means of freezing, drying or bottling to see them through.
Working in my garden, very little seems to have changed compared to the same time last year and yet there are subtle differences: there is hardly any traffic noise; birdsong and the buzz of insects is more clearly audible as a result; there are no aeroplanes or vapour trails in the sky overhead and whilst usually I would work for hours in the garden without distraction, I now feel the need to keep checking my mobile phone for news updates and to ensure friends and family are safe and well.