Weekend gardening columnists Dina and Neil Kingsnorth talk about gardening during the crisis.

The Grappenhall pair run Patch of the Planet

The words that follow feel more like something from a dystopian fiction than a weekend guide to gardening.

Responding to the Covid-19 pandemic is unfamiliar territory for all of us, yet strangely, ignited deep inside are stirrings from ancient times, when sourcing food was paramount and time was less measured.

Our first reaction to the pandemic was to plant as much food as we could. Every single part of the back garden was up for grabs, also pots, an old tin bath and even some old boots. Whatever can hold soil can grow food! When that was done, we ripped out the front garden and turned that space into a veg plot. Very much “Dig for Victory meets The Good Life”.

And the weird thing is how it doesn’t feel weird. Overnight, seeds have become our currency. Rich, dark compost is our ticket to a decent meal. People are panic buying seed potatoes, the kids eat everything on their plate and we don’t waste a scrap! How quickly we adapt.

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We’d planned on growing food in the front for a while and the virus gave us the push we needed. We have mangetout, radish, chives, lettuce and more. We’ve also planted with nature in mind, to attract pollinators, and added plants that fix nitrogen in the soil to maintain fertility. As always, we’ve avoided chemicals and we’ve used up all our compost that we’ve been making over the last year or so.

Any extra seeds and plants have been put on our garden wall for sharing. And we’ve had a few surprise offerings back – spare pots, a sunflower and some runner beans! People have excitedly sent us photos of their new front garden raised beds and our neighbourhood social media group is now arranging street seed swaps. A front garden food revolution has begun! Why stop there? We could have fresh herbs in planters at bus stops. Fruit trees in the parks. l. The possibilities are only limited by our imagination, and as the saying goes, “Necessity is the Mother of invention.”

The front garden is transformed and in doing so, has become our insurance, a place of exchange, and importantly, a safe place of community. I went for my “Boris-approved” walk round the block the other day and I noticed for the first time, people sitting in their porches, reading, having a cuppa, saying their hellos and feeling like they still exist. Connectedness is returning. To our food and to each other.

Strange times indeed.

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Patch of the Planet

Beautiful gardens, designed in harmony with nature