GARDENING time is here again as householders search long grass and overgrown borders for their “lost” mower, fork and spade.
You can’t start too early because those ignoring Nature and succumbing to the lure of the armchair may finally discover their plot has grown so much that they can’t get out of the back door to deal with it.
Believe it or not, the key to success is that humble pockmarked patch of weeds and rubble, your lawn.
If you can get on top of that and stay on top of it then you’ll always have a clear area to retreat to if the borders and vegetable garden get too rampant.
Looking after your lawn can provide hours of reward later relaxing on a bench, chair or recliner on a smooth expanse of green under a sunny blue sky….but you have to get there first.
Never leave the initial mower cut too late. Do this and the grass will be lush and long and will rapidly become obscured by clouds of smoke as your mower engine burns out trying to chew through conditions more suited to silage making. Kicking the mower won’t help. You’ll need it later in the season.
Ideally you need to put the mower on its “stilts” highest setting so that it only trims the top of the lawn for a first cut. Later cuts can slowly bring grass levels down to the height your lawn should be for the summer. This can be judged by dropping a beer can on to the grass. If you can’t see it keep mowing, first removing and drinking the can of beer.
Having established a forward base in the garden you can turn your attention to the flower borders.
These are willful areas which need a stern hand. Plant a flower billed as “good border backing” and you could wind up with something so big you can’t find the shed.
Equally it is no good planting “small, delightfully coloured flowers” at the back of a border where you risk another growth, Wife’s Wrath.
This perennial and bitter presence is the bane of all male gardeners who never seem able to create a garden without it.
So make sure flowers are graded in size from the front of the border to the back to ensure wives are happy and the scent can obscure where cats have gone to the toilet.
Not all gardens are plagued by cats. It only seems that way, but a few simple and humane measures can deter felines and ensure flower borders can reach maturity in safety.
Deterents can include the careful siting of anti-personnel mines for night cover to the more usual daytime cover provided by a handy shotgun or a carefully aimed brick.
Finally, for the true gardener, there is a patch of ground kept for the production of vegetables.
This really does sort the men out from the boys because such areas are not only prone to Wife’s Wrath and cats but to a common disease affecting many gardeners called: “Sod this for a game of soldiers!”
The only weapon which can help the gardener in this war is his shed, a haven to retreat to or a camouflaged bunker from which to launch a pre-emptive strike against Tiddles.
Some vegetable patches are no bigger that a tabletop while others are almost of allotment size, but they all produce one thing, a feeling of satisfaction when vegetables are harvested.
What you plant is up to you but there can be no better way to start than by making sure neighbours can’t just hop over and grab a tureen or two full of beans, sprouts or spuds for their Sunday lunch. You’ve put the effort in and you want the reward. Try planting a boundary hedge of pyracantha. That should do the trick.
Whether you turn the ground over with a spade or a cultivator you’ll need to mix in compost. Leftovers such as last night’s evening meal, Surprise Legumes et Maux d’Estomac, should do the trick.
Once reduced to a fine tilth, don’t just go bull-at-a-gate and start planting all over the place. Mark out which areas are for what and tread in narrow pathways between different vegetables so later on you can get at them to weed, water or start all over again if you have a serious cat problem.
As for choice, asparagus is nice…..but do you really need it? Think main meal. Whatever you normally eat then have a go at planting some be it carrots, runner beans or even potatoes.
I say even potatoes because they take a lot of space and next year, unless you’ve laboriously sieved out every last tiny potato, you suddenly find yourself growing potatoes you never knew you had. They really are prolific in open ground, so perhaps try them in tubs or plan them for an allotment if you are lucky enough to be at the top of the 15-year waiting list.
Once you’ve finished planting then really the only thing to do apart from an occasional liquid feed (that’s food for the plants not a pint for you) is to make sure everything is kept well watered.
Water butts are very useful for this and stave off the need for a hosepipe until drought orders come in. Everyone uses a hosepipe then, usually to fill up their now-empty water butts.
So that’s it, the garden sorted for another year. Must go now. The front doorbell has just gone and the gardener wants paying. You didn’t think I exhausted myself looking after my own garden, did you?