Seed Diaries

Week 1: Page 2 of 3

... make them an easy target for novice gardeners. And they fruit fairly easily, if you can keep the snails and slugs off.

The soil is ready for them. Pretty much. Preparing the soil was undertaken by two of us and involved a lot of forking and turning and picking and pulling. Tiring work. But incredibly effective and satisfying. I know nothing more satisfying. During this process many things were uncovered from the soil that had most likely been left by the previous tenants. Their kids must have enjoyed playing outside. I wonder if the ground was dug up in my parents house if the same things would be unearthed. A minion, bright pink balls what I assume are beads, small plastic bits and pieces impossible to identify outside of their previous games.

The other thing we found a lot of in the soil was polystyrene. Pieces of it. Whenever I now come across a piece I’m always lead to think of nefarious buildings, too lazy or cheap or ill-paid to dispose of it properly. I wonder to myself how far down this garden goes. Is it in fact a square of

land and not a cube? Is all that lies beneath the surface the leftovers from the conversion from house into two flats? I try not to think too hard about this as it leaves me with the distasteful feeling of what is the point. I focus instead on pulling the 2cm piece of polystyrene out of the soil, into the waste pile and think that’s one less piece.

Thinking of the past iterations of this garden reminds me of reading History and Material Culture and in there an article about Landscape Archaeology. Lucy Maynard Salmon, coined the term as she saw the significance of surroundings and the things that were everyday signs of life such as ‘laundry lists, household goods, even the view right outside her door’.2 Landscape Archaeology involves how the elements of the surroundings, the surface, what is visible and not buried, can help build a past picture of a place. All the things in a view, the fencing, the garden path, say something about the place, economics and even politics of the area; they are symbols to be read. There is a lot on offer right there, as Salmon puts it ‘[w]hy search for hidden treasure abroad when the history of the world was spread out in the back yard?’3 Writing this in a global lockdown makes

2. Marina Moskowitz, ‘Backyards and beyond: Landscape and history’, in History and Material Culture: A Student’s Guide to Approaching Alternative Sources, ed. By K. Harvey, The Routledge Guides to Using Historical Sources, Second Edition (New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2018), pp.71-88, p.71.

3. Moskowitz, p.71

this perspective very pertinent but I can’t help but wonder what lead Maynard to this statement? Could it have been the demands and constraints of her position as a woman, possibly with a small child, gazing out the window, maybe even wishing to be somewhere else, as she tried to get a crying child to sleep in the late 19th century?

And alongside this, the follow up thought I had whilst fumbling around in the dirt is how gardening came about? At the time I thought this I had a feeling there was an element of colonialism in gardenings origins. Partly because most cultural phenomenas in the West can somehow relate to taking and pushing a set of ideals or practices upon someone else. And partly from the action that gardening demands. The process of taking things, weeds, soil and plants out from where they were for no better reason than the gardener thinks they should be elsewhere. The audacity to assume the chosen way of the gardener is the ‘right’ way. What is a weed anyway? And why should I dig it up only to move it a few metres away into the organic rubbish heap, out of sight (mostly)?.

It has, as it turns out been going on for some time. The Ancient Egyptians did it for example. Gardening related to three points in Ancient Egyptian gardening according to Alix ...