I love gardens. I really appreciate lush, busy gardens full of mature plants, trees and pretty flowers. I love the idea of gardening, I’m just a bit crap at it. I’m always so full of good intentions, I go to the garden centre, spend a small fortune on likely looking shrubs and flowers and stick them in the ground where I’m instantly disappointed at how small they look. I water them regularly for the first week or so, then promptly forget about them. I don’t mean to, but that’s how it happens every time, and this is why my garden is usually a sorry looking wasteland when I want it to be something that looks like Alan Titchmarsh designed it. Obviously the Titchmarsh usually has the advantage of a bottomless budget so can stick massive plants in an empty bed to make it look like they’d always been there but I have friends who have a beautiful garden, mostly grown from seed, all by themselves. I buy seeds too, stick them in the ground or seed trays, water them for a week and then promptly forget about them. Are you sensing that there’s a trend here? Do I lack the patience? The know how? Both?
Our house has a nice big garden, pretty unusual for Portsmouth, but this just means there’s more for me to ruin. Last year I put some strawberry plants in hanging baskets and some tomatoes in pots, which I put on the sunny patio at the end of the garden. Guess what happened? Go on. That’s right, for a few weeks I watered and fed them religiously. And then I sort of forgot about them, especially the tomatoes on the far patio which you can’t quite see from the house. So we had a crop of about three strawberries and maybe about ten tomatoes. Sigh. Not only that, I had some extra strawberries in pots by the patio doors. The dog ignored them completely for a few weeks and then suddenly, for no good reason, ravaged them. Bastard. She smashed one of the tomato pots too. Bastard. In fact, having a dog has not been entirely advantageous to creating my Titchmarsh ideal. Quite the contrary. Having a dog has royally buggered up my plans before I even got a chance to bugger them up myself. Bloody dog.
This year, though, THIS YEAR is going to be different. No, it is. It IS! This year I fancy a crack at growing some veg, and clearly because of my previous “successes” it’s a brilliant idea and we’re going to save a fortune by producing vast quantities of our own vegetables and not having to pay supermarket prices. Of course we are. Well, OK, were I to be in charge of this little project myself it would naturally be doomed to failure. That’s why I have a little trick up my sleeve, I have enlisted the help of my mum, hurrah! Aren’t mums great? My mum doesn’t have a garden at her house and misses having one quite badly and as she has proven herself to be a very competent gardener in the past, surely having her on board is win win? As long as the INcomptent gardener (yours truly) doesn’t bugger it up. I really hope I don’t.
Growing your own is all the rage at the moment. It’s like everyone’s suddenly rediscovered The Good Life and are all desperate to emulate Tom and Barbara’s suburban self-sufficiency dream. Possibly minus the pigs. I fear I’m a bit more like Margo than Barbara, though. Especially when it comes to worms and creepy crawlies when I’m digging, it’s all I can do to stop myself running inside when I encounter something with more legs than is acceptable to me (four is acceptable, more than four is not). Or fewer legs than is acceptable as in the case of worms. Our local council gave away some growing kits to encourage people to grow healthy produce in whatever space they have, be it in a garden, a window box or even a window sill. The people of Portsmouth do need all the help they can get and this is quite possibly the first council scheme I’ve ever liked the look of. The BBC also gave away growing kits and since the licence fee is pretty high it would have been rude not to apply for one. You’ve got to claw it back where you can. As well as that I spent a few quid on seeds, seed trays and compost (from Wilkinson, bargain place) and that was about it. Oh, apart from my seed potatoes. I may have made a slight error of judgement when considering exactly how many I would need because I didn’t know anything about growing potatoes. Consequently I still have millions of the bloody things but on the plus side they were reduced because they’d all started sprouting already. And I’ve learnt something (that I’m an idiot) so that’s good.
In the Easter holidays I somehow managed to persuade Number 1 son to dig a vegetable patch at the back of the garden near the patio you can’t quite see from the house. Really, though, I suspect it was done more voluntarily by him, probably because he knew damn well I’d never get round to it. He’s a very wise boy, that one. I could reel out the pregnancy excuse again but it is wearing a bit thin. While he was doing that I filled many seed trays and small pots with compost and exciting looking seeds, tomatoes (lots of), strawberries, carrots, leeks, spinach, cucumber, aubergines, broccoli, peppers (lots and lots of) and possibly myriad other things I’ve already forgotten. I’ve got a mini greenhouse in my garden so I shoved them all in there, watered them and impatiently wondered how long it would be before anything happened, if anything happened at all. I wasn’t feeling especially confident. I also filled some potato planters with compost and was a little perturbed to discover that each one only takes 3 seed potatoes. I have hundreds. Oops. I’ve been good so far, I’ve watered everything regularly and was delighted to see some shoots in some of the trays and pots after a week or so. My mum came and planted some strawberries in the hanging baskets and some onions, cabbages and cauliflowers in the vegetable patch. The dog is now fenced off from that part of the garden so can’t suddenly decide to ruin anything after weeks of ignoring it, however much she wants to. The problem is that with just onions, cabbages and cauliflowers the patch is already almost full. Where the buggery bollocks am I going to put the tomatoes, strawberries, carrots, leeks, spinach, cucumber, aubergines, broccoli, peppers etc.? Perhaps I’m just not cut out for the Good Life…