Just Pushing Sticks into the Soil

I wasn’t into gardening when I was a kid. Not many of us were. From when I was born to when I was about 13 we lived in a terraced (or row) house with no garden at all. The back yard was concrete, the front ‘garden’ had flagstones on it. My Dad, in an attempt to bring something green into the yard, made a small rockery in one corner. I estimate there were seven plants in it. Not much to garden there.

I spent my days playing in the street with the other kids. Tennis, bike-riding, messing around with mud – all par for the course when you’re seven. My grandparents though had gardens. My Dad’s mum (Nanny) lived two doors away from us and she loved Roses. Even though her back yard was roughly the same size as ours there was no concrete there, she had a Rose garden. How those Roses grew I’ll never know. They probably had about two hours of sunlight a day what with the shade of all the other houses. But they did grow. There was even a small patch of lawn if I remember rightly. And the washing line ran straight through the middle.

I was allowed to run up and down the little pathways as much as I liked.

My other grandparents, Grandma and Father lived about a 10 minute walk away. They had a bigger garden because they lived in a semi-detached house. Well, Father was a coal miner, see. And in a mining town that meant you had more money. So their garden not only had a Rose garden (they were all the rage) but also a lawn, a coldframe, and a shed.

If you are picturing a cute little wooden shed with a window and steps up to the door, possibly painted blue – that’s not it. This shed was huge. I think it was actually two medium-sized sheds stuck together, back-to-back because it had two entrances. One at the front and one at the back but you couldn’t actually walk from one end to the other. You had to walk around to the other door.

But that wasn’t the strangest thing about it. It was covered from rooftop to step in tin-can lids. You know when you open a can with a can-opener and you throw the lid away, well why? When you can make a sort of weather-proof shield for your shed? He had nailed them all over the huge shed and then painted the whole thing green. In an attempt to make it melt into the background?

I wish I had a photograph of the crazy shed. But I don’t. Gosh maybe it’s still there?

His garden was very quirky, it’s true. But I loved it. My mum and me used to walk up to my Grandmas house roughly every other day. My Grandma was stern. She didn’t really like having children in the house so she would check that I had a vest on under my clothes (and mum was in trouble if I did not!) and then she would send me out into the garden ‘to play’ while the she did stuff. Drink tea I think.

Once out in the garden I would mess with things. Open the coldframe and take pots out. Sit on the lawn and make daisy chains. Push sticks into the soil. Follow the ants. See what Father was doing inside the shed – he was always inside the shed.

The point is that even though we didn’t have a garden of our own I had gardens to play in, albeit small ones. There were no rules, no gates, no adults present most of the time. The gardens themselves weren’t even that neat. I definitely remember a sizeable amount of weeds.

No-one ever ‘did’ gardening with me. My Dad tried but I was a teenager then and not receptive to anyone but Simon Le Bon.

My kids are spoiled and they don’t even know it. They have their own vegetable patches and their own seed boxes and their own unusable small tools. I’m just waiting in the wings until they turn into budding horticulturists. It may not happen. But guess what? They love to mess around in the garden, they love to move pots around and push sticks into the soil. And… they love to run on the little pathways.

Their favourite thing is to ‘mess’ with the fountain. Running water! If I had only had running water. Their next favourite thing is to rig up some kind of trap across a pathway using rope and/or string. After that it’s digging (in the sandbox, or not in the sandbox there’s no pattern), sitting in the greenhouse with me and asking me what I’m doing, running around with bamboo canes and sweeping (not in an attempt to clean up though).

I did manage to get them seed-saving the other day. That was a first for me.




5 Comments on “Just Pushing Sticks into the Soil

  1. Your boys look so grown up, Gill! Love the look of the new website. Hope all well with you guys, Claire x (Shockerwick)

  2. Ok so now I have huge potting shed envy. I have an Uncle Alan who has always had a fabulous garden – both flowers and veg. I loved wandering around it as a child, and have proudly shown him around my fledgling garden as an adult. He was very complimentary about my broad beans. I was thrilled.
    Leanne xx

  3. This post made long forgotten memories rush back to mind unbidden – your writing made my heart ache, it also made me cry. Thank you so much :)
    PS your boys are growing up SO quick aren’t they?
    Best wishes

  4. A fantastic post, I am imagine that tin can lid roof, genius idea! My Grandad had a habit of painting EVERYTHING in the garden Khaki green, I think he just had lots of paint leftover from the army and just decided the shed, water butts, flower pots would benefit a splash of colour – drove my dad mad!!

    Your boys are very very lucky, I realise I was now, my garden always provided a space to explore and learn on my own for a change, I still find that now! Glad I found your blog!

    Katie x