There is something truly wonderful about the pile of old terracotta pots sitting patiently in the greenhouse, awaiting the chance to fulfil their potential. The very fact that they are made from the earth is testament to its essential productivity and they seem to hold within the promise of fruitfulness. Most of these are very old, perhaps some over 100 years, handed on from gardener to gardener, garden to garden; but for this year they are here and silently crying out to work with me in trying to bring a harvest from the earth.
And in gardening, as in life, we need that encouragement, that belief. In spring we need to see these pots, empty and have the thought that maybe with just a little bit of compost (old dead matter) and a seed and some measure of luck, something beautiful and wonderful will come from it – as unlikely as that may seem and even if experience tells us it doesn’t always work out. To pick one up and know, that to not fill it, to not sow something, to leave it unfulfilled is to have already written failure; but that to take that chance, to take that risk, might just result in a little miracle and something quite wonderful.
So I sit in the warmth of the small greenhouse with the wind and rain hammering to get in, next to this pile of pots, and try not to look out the windows, past the shed, at the beds unprepared, the grass growing too long, the weeds waking up from their long winter rest, keen to make up for time. Instead I fill each one and nestle some seed down into its dark duvet and try not to get too excited by the pictures on the packet or the descriptions of fantastical crops. Although in this I would almost certainly fail, where it not for last year’s fallen written across labels and gathered like tombstones in an old broken pot. I take one out, put a line though the squash that for some reason didn’t ripen or the celeriac that never got planted and then, with genuine belief that this year will be different, write on the new name.
I have been trying to think of a sentence which neatly uses the word that keeps coming to mind, but actually it’s so fundamental to all life that it deserves one of it’s own. Tenacity. Nature has it in abundance; the damn Marestail that you just cannot get to the end of; the Marguerite that shrivels and dies due to me failing to water it enough during the summer, but then revives each winter to take another onslaught and the rhubarb that no matter else fails can always be relied on to be there, allowing us at least one meal from the allotment in early spring.
Whilst it would be foolish to suggest that we take pride in not learning from our mistakes, it would be twice as foolish to be paralysed by the thought that we might make them again. The pots have no memory of past wrongs and take no umbrage at being emptied of dried compost and stalks too withered to be identified. So I’ll take my lead from them and sit in quiet, hopeful expectation, and fill and sow each one as though it were my first.