7 January 1922: When one has got over into the third foolscap sheet, lean back in one’s chair, plot out the beds and imagine the year’s garden

Kew
How delicious are the first seed catalogues, and how old one would have to be before experience had taught one not to over-buy! One begins very firmly by declaring “I will write down only what I must have.” And the list grows. For the vegetable garden, “early, mid-season, late”; obviously one wants the three kinds in potatoes, peas, beans, all sorts of cabbages and kale, onions, carrots, and so forth. Then one wants leeks, various salads to come on in succession, and a good row of celery, if only for flavouring purposes. One will probably get one’s asparagus in the form of roots, as also one’s mint, thyme, sage, and marjoram, and one’s jerusalem artichokes. But one will need to sow parsley and fennel and chervil if one wants a fresh supply, and no radishes are like those one pulls oneself five minutes before one eats them. If one has learnt to eat them abroad, one will hanker for finocchi, kohlrabi, cardoons, salsify, chicory, and other delectable strangers.

Then, when one has got over into the third foolscap sheet, one leans back in one’s chair, plotting out the beds (with due regard to rotation) and visualising oneself digging and preparing them; one remembers that a considerable proportion of the plants will have to be “pricked out” into fresh quarters; if one is wise, one makes a rough estimate of the space each sort of plant takes up and allows for reserves in case of accidents; one tries to look with a cool, dispassionate eye at the amount of labour and manure and water that good culture requires, and to calculate whether one can command that amount, reminding oneself that it is better business to grow a few vegetables well than many badly. Then one returns to hack down the list and to leave only as much as one can see one’s way to sow, rear, and harvest successfully. That will probably be twice as much as is necessary. But Nature is wasteful, and we follow Nature.

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