I feel it in my fingers and in my toes. No, not love (I’m a gardener) but spring. For gardeners it should probably be re worded as “I can feel my fingers and my toes”. The hawthorn and elder are starting to sprout, the bare root transplanting season is therefore drawing to a close, the pressure is on to finish off the planting of the hedges and fruit garden. Although I’m not tempted to start sowing seeds or onion sets yet, as I mentioned in a previous diary the soil is still far too cold.
The pressure on the garden team to finish the planting is the positive kind of pressure to spur you on to complete a job. The reward of leaning on your spade and looking over the completed work and thinking “yeah that looks good”; getting paid for it has always been a secondary consideration for me (hopefully my bank manager isn’t reading this). Critical to getting a feeling of smug self-satisfaction is having a manageable amount of work. If you set yourself too much to do then you inevitably end up with feelings of failure. You scramble to complete jobs in time and either do a poor job or complete them late and pay the price later in the year. If you delay the planting of bare root trees and shrubs they don’t have time to settle in before the year starts to get dry. We planted a beech hedge in a rush last year, late in the season, this was followed by a hot dry spring and even with regular watering the plants never looked very happy. Extra work and no feelings of smug self-satisfaction. I’ve seen this problem with many novice gardeners, being over-ambitious. Managing a small area really well is far more satisfying than managing a large area badly. Start small and scale up, if time, space and commitment allow. The garden should be a refuge from the unnatural pressures of much of contemporary society, not an additional source of mental conflict.
The feeling of satisfaction, of a job well done seems to extend to many areas of work. Our accountant Ciaran seems to have a passion for and skills at carpentry (handy for me as my carpentry skills could be charitably described as basic). He certainly has a look of smug self-satisfaction on his face after making a raised bed (which you might notice on his appearance in our T.V. show) that I never see after he has spent a day buried in excel spreadsheets.
I feel very fortunate to spend my life working at something which is intrinsically satisfying. So many people seem to have to work in work places where impossible deadlines and deliberately created insecurity are used as a brutal way to motivate people. I’m happy to spend my working life coping with the seasonal deadlines of a garden, with intrinsic rewards being the primary motivation, even if my bank manager doubts the wisdom of my choice. Though I tend to think that a day in a garden would do her the world of good.
Richard Mee is Head Grower at GROW HQ where, in addition to running and developing the production gardens, he teaches seasonal growing courses. The next course, Spring Time in the Garden, is on 31st March 2018.