Summer is drawing to a close – and what a summer! Predictions of a drought to knock 1976 into a cocked hat became the subject of ridicule as the rain poured and poured and, well, poured… breaking one record and then another. Sitting in my garden recently, I found myself reflecting on my gardening year.
This is the first year I have sown anything from seed and I have had a good number of successes. I have grown broad beans, runner beans, French beans – the runner beans from beans harvested from last year’s crop. I have grown Swiss chard, and three different types of courgettes – green courgettes, yellow courgettes and summer squash. I have grown butternut squash, potatoes and tomatoes. I have grown marigolds and nasturtium. I have grown aubergine and cucumbers, lettuce, fennel – even cauliflowers. Recently, visiting my local farmer’s garden, I noticed how many of the vegetables I most admired were ones I have in abundance in my own garden.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing. The tomatoes have suffered terribly in the rain and I have had to pull out and dispose of tomatoes with blight. Of those that remain, I have only had ripe tomatoes in the last two or three weeks and even then, very few – what a wash-out! I have discovered that some plants really do need to be in a green house – the aubergines and cucumbers in particular. I don’t (yet) have a greenhouse, though I have started to ponder what size greenhouse I need and where I might put it in my garden which is spacious by urban standards and nonetheless modest in size.
I really celebrate my learning. I can grow things from seed and they are naturally inclined to grow. In this less-than-sunny year my vegetables have grown much better on one side of the garden than the other. I’ve learnt a few more ways to reduce the number of slugs and snails in my garden. I’ve learnt – after upwards of 40 years without eating a broad bean – that I can eat broad beans and (in some dishes at least) enjoy them. And as I learn more about my garden I am also slowly developing a plan for it. I know where I want to grow vegetables, taking into account the position of the garden and where the sun shines. I know where I want to have a seating area for breakfast and another shady seating area for lunch at midday. I have learnt that I experience an unbelievable amount of pleasure – a deep, deep joy – from sowing and tending and planting my own seeds. I have been reminded of nature’s abundance and the joy of giving away my excess harvest.
After a while I realised that my reflections were like the annual reviews that are carried out in many organisations. I also realised that my reflection in hindsight were rather different from my reflections at certain moments during the year, when my focus was overwhelmingly on the challenges of my garden – the blight on my tomatoes, the impossibility of staying on top of the weeds and the slugs and snails in what seemed like interminable rain. For me, this ‘annual review’ of my gardening year, seated with a cup of tea in the midst of the harvest of my labours brought nothing but joy, pure joy. I was able to embrace my successes and to notice areas where I still have much to learn. I was able to look ahead and to begin to plan for the year(s) ahead without any sense of being somehow in ‘deficit’. I was able to differentiate between gaps in my learning and the impact of circumstances beyond my control.
If only the workplace annual review could be a joyous event, too. I wonder, what would this take in your organisation?