How my Grandfathers influenced me – part one
My first gardening experiences were, as a very young boy, either observing or assisting my grandfathers.
Abraham was a larger than life character, a retired farmer. My overriding memories of being with him were his personable laughter and his whistle. Probably a reflection of the time but his trouser waist band seemed to be almost under his arm pits, supported by the inevitable braces. Why over the next three generations the waist band has dropped to below under pant level perplexes me and one has to question how much further can it possibly go?
Abraham’s garden though, to me, did not reflect his personality. Perhaps he was conforming to the expectations of the time – who knows?
Heavily manicured, over mown lawns and from what I remember the overall design had little content. Regimented rows of standard roses surrounded by weed free bare soil. That is my memory and it may not clearly reflect what was actually there. His diligence and hard work did earn him prizes though and I can still see several certificates for his endeavours, in his garden dotted on a mantle piece here and there in his bungalow.
I can clearly remember his lawn mower. A kick start Atco cylinder mower. My weight prohibited me from starting it as I couldn’t overcome the compression of the engine – probably a good thing in hindsight. It was a heavy beast and I imagine that I would have been dragged around the garden and through his precious roses by it.
Like most of his generation he’d been through WW2 and growing your own wasn’t then considered as the “Good Life” but a necessity to survive. Like many of his generation he continued this production in a small corner of his garden. He grew the standard vegetables (potatoes, cabbages, sprouts etc) but his piece de resistance was his greenhouse.
You stepped down into what, to me was a hot, dusty building .The amplified warmth exacerbating a very odd aroma. Slightly agricultural with a hint of tomato.
The two innovations that he used in here are perhaps his legacy to me and were simple ones.
Firstly he sank small flower pots at the base of the tomato plant stems to ensure his liquid feed was targeted in the right direction. You poured in the juice knowing it was going to be effective and not going to waste. This is a technique I use today to save water when growing certain vegetables.
Secondly to the juice. Just outside the door of the greenhouse he had a large galvanised tank with a wooden lid on it. I think this may have been tap filled but I cannot be sure now. Into the water he used to drop a hessian sack of manure and in doing so producing his own, free, liquid organic fertiliser. No mixing ratios, no diluting rates in it went and out came the smelly ferty brew.
He grew some absolute beauties and a tomato sandwich, with a little salt and pepper using a fruit from Abraham’s greenhouse was something to be savoured. Never to be forgotten!