The Garden in May  

a field of wild flowers and trees in the background

“May, more than any other month of the year, wants us to feel most alive.”— Fennel Hudson

In Spring 2020, when we suddenly experienced the curtailing of our outer freedoms through lockdown measures, I experienced a change in my attitude to nature. Although there was no possibility of travelling or socialising, I was very fortunate to be able to continue gardening, working largely alone and outdoors. The skies and the roads were empty, and the sun shone for weeks through April and May, and as I worked, I remembered two experiences from earlier days. The first was from Switzerland where I worked with a team of vegetable and estate gardeners. The foreman, Benno, busy planning holidays, made the dramatic statement that no one could go on holiday until Midsummer’s Day (June 21st), an idea I didn’t really understand or want to agree to. The second was a memory from my childhood of the smell of grass, lush spring grass. 

As I worked, for the first time in many years I slipped into a different way of being – apart from a day or two off during Easter, I took no holidays from March until mid-June. The experience was enlivening. Not only could I keep on top of the garden, but I felt more connected to the seasons and to all the plant growth – flowers, fruit, grass and ‘weeds’. May in particular was truly ‘a month to feel alive in’, and as a gardener I then understood what Benno was suggesting and also my ‘grass memory’: to be allowed to spend time undistracted by holidays, with nature in all her lush aliveness was a gift. As Rudolf Steiner suggests in his ‘Soul Calendar’, (52 weekly meditative verses developed to accompany us through the cycle of the year) we can feel into the light that shines in May and perhaps notice that: 

“Within the light that out of spirit depths
Germinating power is woven into space,
Revealing the Gods’ creative work:
Within its shine, the soul’s true being
Is widened into worldwide life,
And resurrected
From selfhood’s narrow inner power” 
Verse 5 (May 5th -12th)

This lovely idea of ‘widening into worldwide life’ will be my motif this May, and I will try to remember this, as the next weeks unfold towards Midsummer.

News from the vegetable garden

Last month I wrote about the ‘no-dig’ vegetable garden I have been developing and wanted to give a short update. So far, so good: everything seems to be progressing as it should – the garlic and beans are growing well, and I can only assume that they have found their way through the cardboard into the soil below. In April I planted potatoes and onions just an inch above the cardboard, at the time of writing I cannot tell how they are doing. There are very few weeds anywhere yet so the cardboard seems to be successful, however, I imagine that May with all her lush growth will bring some weed challenges, particularly on the edges of the beds and as the cardboard slowly disappears. I will ask my friendly advisors what the next step would be to reduce weeds – my feeling is to plant really densely to minimise open soil, for example, sowing carrots between the onions, and annual flowers like Calendula between squashes and tomatoes. Additionally, I will probably need to keep the grass and other plants around the edge cut as low as possible. To be continued…

Michael Fuller, May 2023