My garden shed of memories

In the Countryside: A rainy-day task turns into a sentimental journey for Grace Corne.

It had rained for two days and although the following morning was clear and bright there was a bitter edge on the wind. With that and the soggy ground it was not a time for gardening but it was an ideal time for clearing out the garden shed. This had unexpected bonuses as when we opened the heavy old door it became a shed full of memories.

The little wooden cupboard on the wall has seen many years. It was once the place where ‘the man who did the garden’ kept strange and secret mixtures for treating club root, caterpillars and greenfly. I remember it once containing little cotton bags which would be carefully placed over developing peaches to keep wasps away.

In a cupboard we found an old ‘rub’ used for sharpening scythes. All the long grass and that in the neighbouring churchyard would be cut by scythes. At that time snakes and slow worms could be found in numbers in the garden. They could easily hear and move away from a man with a scythe, but eventually motor mowers were introduced and those little creatures suffered severely.

A stack of clay pots brought back memories. This one was for strawberries, that had the plant with the razor-sharp leaves, those were for Grandpa’s tomatoes, and so we recalled our family history.

One find particularly pleased my husband. It was the end of an enormous and very heavy hoe. “This was my mangold hoe,” he explained. “It measured exactly nine inches across and we had to do two chops and leave one so the beet were 18 inches apart and the rows 24. The hoe frames were made by the blacksmith and then we went to the local wood yard and had pieces of old band saw fitted. The hoes were excellent for chopping but if you tried to push with them they shattered. The good thing about them was they never got any thicker. We planted either ‘Globe’ or ‘Tankard’ and they would grow as big as a bucket.”