A Gardener’s Guide To Brexit
As conversations dry, someone signals a time for silence with a sorrowful Doogle-like shake of the head. Then a softly muttered ‘What a way to run a railway’, a despairing, ‘What can we do?’,or a very final ‘Nothing we can do, mate’. As the dark days of divorce creep closer,‘Take Back Control’ now seems a very unlikely campaign slogan.
Somewhere, someone may be looking forward to this Brexit. Somewhere, someone may see this as a golden opportunity. Some optimist, somewhere, may even try to revive spirits by saying that, surely, every cloud has a silver lining. Meanwhile those of us not inclined towards such hopeful investment are diverting their gaze towards survival strategies.
In the ongoing swirl of uncertainty, there’s no need to tell Captain Mannering to not panic — he’d only say, ‘Silly Boy’– but those with a tad more awareness are already on the case. In this first episode of Brexit Survival Strategies we take advantage of fine autumn weather to find answers in the soil.
Gardening For Survival
Not exactly ‘digging for victory’, gardening is far more than a response to food shortages and cost increases — it is also a potentially massive shift towards healthier diets, stronger mental health, a cleaner environment and closer tighter-knit communities.
Even for those without gardens or much horticultural experience, pot-grown fruit and veg can be a confidence booster. The question is ‘What should I grow?’ The current best advice is to focus on those essentials most likely to be in short supply. Close inspection of supermarket labels will reveal the most distant and most desirable produce that might conceivably cope with your local climate.
Your priorities will be a matter of individual taste. Who knows if, come next summer, there’ll be enough fruit pickers — investment now in soft fruits may pay dividends. Some plants take several seasons to mature — asparagus, for example. We may find that we’ll need to adapt to a more local seasonality and forgo some of our current favourites, like avocado. 2019’s onions should already be on the priority-planting list. Some popular veg (like beans) may grow like wildfire and you may, next year, produce a glut — so expect to stockpile and freeze the surplus. If you’ve not already got one, a Spong bean slicer would make a handy Christmas present.
With time flying out of the Project Fantasia window the need to plan ahead for the new reality has urgency. Sacrifice part of your lawn as soon as possible to create new vegetable beds well ahead of next year’s planting season. If your garden space is limited, expect a resurgence of demand for allotments and get ahead in the queue. If you have the space create (or enlarge) the compost heap — every scrap of nutrient need not be wasted. As Christmas approaches also consider who would best find value in a practical guide to gardening skills and the care of vegetables.
With so many of our cut flowers being imported from The Netherlands, and soon more likely to become only occasional luxuries, it may also be worthwhile focusing your community on a collective approach — matching time and space resources between neighbours. Not everyone, of course, has the room for courgettes and marrows but new varieties of dwarf French Beans or tiny tomatoes and fresh herbs can easily thrive on windowsills and balconies.
Owners of gardens with greenhouses often have spare capacity so hunt around for the garden equivalent of AirB&B — or start a local tool-sharing scheme to help those without forks. Some local employers and Local Authorities may also be keen to help — Glasgow’s ‘Stalled Spaces Initiative’ is a great example of collective endeavour.
Catching Every Drop
For many of us the days of unmetered water supplies have long since vanished — and hosepipes quench only the thirst of water company shareholders for increased dividends.
More growing may need more watering, so this winter would be a good time to install diversion inserts in guttering down-pipes to store rainwater in large butts.
With fresh food shortages on the rise, planning ahead will also, sadly, mean checking your security. Are fences mended? Are gates and sheds lockable? Next winter’s leek soup or your tools may be more valuable than you imagine. As eating out becomes far less affordable some chefs may be hungry for bargain price supplies — no questions asked. One has only to look back to wartime rationing to see the pressures.
Post-Brexit, security may be more of a challenge to allotment holders unless some collaborative community watchfulness is encouraged. Local social media platforms will be increasingly useful in coping with the expected surge in petty crime and, no doubt, cash-strapped police services will welcome citizen assistance. Enrolling neighbours to check gardens during your absences will also bring folks together with common purpose.
Raise also awareness of the inevitable scams — the dodgy seeds, the genetically modified, the deregulated weed-killers and growth hormones, diseased plants or untested ‘superfast bumper crop’ promises sold online from dubious dealers.
Even if the coming era of national ‘decline and fall’ turns out to be less severe than currently projected, the stimulus of local community cohesiveness will be a welcome antidote to excessively centralized Whitehall-driven dogmatic policy pursuits. Devolution? No. Taking Control? Not really. Taking many opportunities to intervene? Emphatically, Yes. ‘Innovation without permission’ (JFDI), as they said of the Internet, is a great principle for communities.
So finally, consider the plight of those less fortunate, the elderly and infirm, those without local family support and families dependent on food-banks. The supposedly ‘free market’ Project Fantasists may have blithely disregarded mutual interdependencies in their power-lust for taking control of some small corner of our continent, but, within our villages and communities, we gardeners can keep alive the idea that we are not such a foreign field.