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Gratitude Prevails For The Rain

From Schumacher College Garden

by Head Gardener Jane Gleeson 

It's raining as I write this - teeming down. After a beautiful sunny calm day yesterday; I rode into college today with rain blowing rain into my face making my glasses more of a hindrance then a help. I have been a lifelong cyclist - mostly in towns and cities and love it. Cycling made me dislike rain - arriving pl aces with sodden legs and feet and hair that does not respond well to wetness- my feet usually not drying out for most of the day. It always felt harder to look (and feel) professional when waterlogged - competence comes clean and dry not with muddy damp trousers!! Yet once I started gardening, my attitude to rain transformed - even if I was cycling in it. Once you pay attention to what the plants and therefore all of the earth needs - and water being prime amongst those needs - it's harder and harder to dislike rain. Instead gratitude prevails (though I have to confess I am more grateful if it rains overnight and stays dry in working hours!)

The apprentices have been learning about soils this week; one of the most important topics they will engage with over their time on the apprenticeship. I trust that they will find that the more they get to know and experience soils the more they will feel the need to protect them. I no longer look at a piece of freshly exposed soil and think how lovely and neat it looks and healthy it seems - I think about how can I cover it quickly with live plants or at least organic matter; be prepared though as this does encourage slugs and snails as well.

It's in the 'forgotten' areas of the garden - places that are semi- wild and overgrown; with permanent vegetation cover and lots of organic matter (from leaf fall and decay etc); places that are left essentially undisturbed by humans, that you find yourself peering at lovely, dark, crumbly, sweet-smelling soil. The sort of soil you find in a deciduous forest and would love on your vegetable plot. Creating (or I should say re-creating) that type of soil whilst food growing is a challenge about how to mimic natural processes of decay and recycling with minimal interference and still be able to grow a crop to harvest. That challenge will be very real as we start to grow food in our new 5 acre agroforestry site - and questions about soil management and especially about how, and If, we till will be taxing the apprentices and the gardens team over the next few weeks.

Rain does not damage a healthy soil - one rich in organic matter and full of life - it's protected and has innate strength - rain will run off bare soils and take weak soil with it. I am sincerely wanting to grow the foods we want and fulfill our responsibility not to harm the soil as we do so but in fact to help restore it.