In which our generous and thoughtful Southern correspondent finally – though reluctantly – sees the light with the aid of a pot and six bulbs of garlic
At last! Our gruff Southern man sees the light
Don’t you just love it when god gives you a shove in the small of the back? “Go on,” growls god, “what are you waiting for? Go for it.”
Of course by god I don’t mean God. I mean the, you know, the what’s it, happenstance, what Hardy called the Immanent Will, the principle by which… but perhaps I should just tell the story. This is after all a gardening magazine, not a Vatican newsletter. (I wonder what the Latin is for jumble sale.)
I was in a hardware store in search of a birthday present for a woman who is fond of pots, so fond indeed that she has pots by the hundred if not thousand. If I were she, I would think the last thing I needed was another pot, but I am not she and I doubt she will ever feel she has enough pots even if she has to move into the potting shed because of the number of pots in the house. All of which may make her a little unusual but it also makes her easy to buy for.
I found the right pot immediately, decorated with an exquisite green and red sticker saying “Reduced to clear”. It was also an outdoor pot which might, I thought, with typical kindness, make some small contribution to delaying her eviction to the potting shed.
It was as I was heading for the checkout, pot in hand, that god shoved me. He did so in the direction of a wall display. Now is the time, said the display, to plant garlic.
Had I been in a cartoon, a light bulb would have come on in my head. For, at that exact time, I was halfway through writing a newspaper column in praise of garlic’s contribution to meat dishes and human happiness. What better then than to start growing my own? And how opportune that now should be the time to do it. Thanks for the shove, god, I whispered.
From the display I learned that to grow garlic you just buried a clove in the soil on the shortest day and on the longest you came back and harvested it. But I also learned that three bulbs of planting garlic would cost me $6.99. Did they take me for a sucker? Five minutes later I’d paid for the pot, crossed the carpark to the supermarket and acquired six bulbs of fat Chinese garlic for $3.99.
Back home, my vegetable beds were smothered in winter weeds. I didn’t feel like weeding in the cold and besides I fancied the idea of growing garlic right by the kitchen door for cooking convenience.
What I needed was… well, they say god works in mysterious ways. And it became immediately evident that to give my friend another pot would be a cruelty, like giving whisky to an alcoholic. I planted the pot with garlic and a conscience as clear as a windscreen.
After a week, nothing had to say, “Avoid imported garlic, as it’s typically fumigated to stop sprouting.” Back at the hardware store, I asked the assistant where they’d put the garlic display. “Oh that’s all finished for the year,” she said. “Oh ha ha, god,” I said. “Oh ha ha ha.” I’ll give her the pot for Christmas. sprouted in my pot. After a fortnight, nothing had sprouted. After a month, there were only five months to go until harvest and still nothing had sprouted. I consulted god made electronic, the omniscient internet. On the subject of growing garlic it had the following