So, as I write this, it’s a lowering autumn day and garden tasks are on my mind. Winter is at hand. This is the time of year when gardeners make plans. (How many times have I said that?)
Now, there are those plans for garden tasks which are fairly easily achieved. Things you just have to do. Cutting out or extending a planting-bed, for instance. Even if it’s just tidying up an edge or two with the half-moon edger.
Then there are those other plans. These are the ones which fall into the ‘good intentions’ category and, somehow, always seem to be put off.
Take, for instance, the vexed question of the herb garden, requested, not unreasonably, by my wife.
Gardening cliche, I know, but I fancy one of those cartwheel shapes made with brick edging and with carefully laid out designer herbs, properly labelled, all set out conveniently close to the kitchen, so that I nip out to snip the bouquet garni for the mince.
Stylish or what, eh? But has it happened yet? Nope, you can bet your it’ll be the same this coming year again, stravaigin over half the plot looking for the oregano. I planted it somewhere…
One year we made chicken with wallflower leaves at least twice because I went out in the gloaming – acting under instruction, you understand, to get tarragon. Why it was next to wallflower, I really can’t work out in retrospect. In the dusk it was an easy mistake to make.
Actually, probably not… Still, some day I’ll get the herb garden properly laid out. Honest I will. I’m just adding it to the list of garden tasks.
By the way, wallflower leaves don’t taste of anything. Mind you, you could say the same for yon coorse Russian tarragon. All the best people have the French sort, don’t you know…
Another thing I quite fancy is to make a serious effort at a wildflower meadow. The fact I don’t actually have the space for anything remotely resembling a meadow is the least of the obstacles.
This is not really a problem because, deep down, I fear it will never quite reach the top of the priorities.
Oh, yes, I think most of us have fallen for the gaily illustrated packets or tubes of wild flowers. We’ve flung them hither and beyond and then – nothing.
Partly because we forgot about them, but partly because I reckon that unless you plant these seeds in wee plugs, and then plant out the plugs, then the wild flower seedlings get overwhelmed.
So, there isn’t anything spontaneous about a well-coloured wild-flower patch. The art is in making it look natural.
I’ll content myself with the odd wild corner instead. This is the part of the garden usually described as: ‘Have you been round the back of the shed recently? It’s a jungle!’
I argue that the hedgehogs like it that way. And those nettles had red admiral butterfly caterpillars on them last year. So they had to stay. But one day I will have a proper go at growing wildflowers in the grass. You know I will. It’s on the garden tasks list.
And here’s another job I’d like to do. The easy-going ladies’ mantle Alchemilla mollis – flops across the lawn edge every summer. Alchemilla is tough and undemanding, inclined to spread but worthwhile all the same.
The logical and neat thing to do would be to lay slabs of some sort to separate grass from herbaceous plant.
Instead, year upon year, every time I cut the grass I catch myself adopting strange contortions. I sort of hop behind the mower with the other leg extended in front to hold back the floppy plant while I cut underneath it.
It’s crazy (and slightly unsafe from an ‘elfin safety’ point of view). But will I lay those slabs? Well, uhmm, maybe one day.
Oh, the list goes on. A sturdy bit of walling instead of the decaying larch-lap fencing; and the extra staging which I have been promising to put up in the greenhouse. Listing garden tasks can easily become endless.
Actually, can you believe it – I’ve solved the staging issue. Instead of over-priced dedicated staging, I got a couple of metal (yes, metal) structures described as ‘Camping Catering Heavy Duty Folding Trestle Tables’
They were great value for money and are as sturdy as could be – and they seem rust-resistant too. The picture shows one of them in my realistically untidy greenhouse.
Aside from the slightly demanding gardening tasks listed above. There is a minor list of little things that never quite get done out of sheer…well, what? Lack of time perhaps?
Another year gone by and I never got round to planting winter lettuces for just one last trial. I’ve never succeeded with them before, under cover I mean. With me they just go into suspended animation. Then, when the days start to lengthen, they bolt. Ho-hum. But I’m determined to crack this one. Watch this space.
(Above) The grand reveal: the potatoes planted to be harvested at Christmas. That was what the packaging said. The total crop is in my hand. Smaller than the potatoes I started with. Never again.
So, winter lettuces are almost in that ‘never again’ category – like growing potatoes for Christmas. Who dreamt that one up?
Those beguiling little bags in garden centres. I tried ‘em once – and I think I have mentioned this elsewhere – but the resultant crop was smaller in volume than the volume of potato that was planted. Micro-spuds. It ain’t natural, I tell ‘ee.
But I vow that this spring I will make real efforts to get those herbaceous plant supports in place in time. I mean before the growth really starts to rocket. There are few things more guaranteed to try the patience than trying to bend and coax a big yellow scabious – I’m thinking Cephalaria gigantica here – already reaching for the sky like a lanky adolescent
And I mean bend or thread it into one of these wiry supports that are gradually engulfed by foliage as the spring gets under way. Why do I always leave it too late when those tall plants definitely need staking this far north? I promise, next year it will be different…
Unless you are ruthlessly dedicated and spending all day, every day, in the plot, there are always jobs which never quite happen. The demands of work, family, other hobbies, and a social life make it that way for the average gardener. (It’s quite normal. I wouldn’t worry about it!)
Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a bonny wee cowslip I need to move this minute…I’ve been meaning to do it for months now.
And by the way….what makes a nice garden, anyway?