“I’m really sorry Dawn, but I have to admit I hate gardening”
So said a friend of mine last weekend as we stood chatting – ironically, as it happened, in a beautiful garden. Another mutual friend nodded vigorously in agreement “Oh yes, me too!”
This has been bothering me ever since.
For a bit of background, I should point out that we are all of a similar age – mid to late 40s – which is perhaps still on the ‘young’ side. I don’t mean in general of course – I’m not deluded – but in gardening terms it’s traditionally been in your 50s that you suddenly start to show an interest in Gardeners’ World and begin to debate the correct way to prune roses.
Equally it’s not that I expect everyone to love horticulture as I do, but, as my mother would say, “hate is a strong word.”
On further questioning it seems to be the workload that gets them down. They don’t look on their garden as a place to relax, but instead as just another long list of jobs to be completed.
And I do understand this, but it really isn’t impossible to turn it around. My own garden looks incredibly high maintenance, but it’s actually quite easy to look after.
The beds are so stuffed full of plants that there is little space for weeds to grab hold. When I do spot one it’s usually already well past my knees but actually the odd large weed is far easier to remove than hundreds of small ones.
Then there is the mulching. Amazingly a layer of organic matter spread over our beds in march will stop the vast majority of weeds seeding and also, by trapping in the moisture, means I can escape the job of watering for the rest of the season. Except for the pesky pots of course but that’s what irrigation systems – or small children – are for.
I’ve also lapsed in my organic principles in the last couple of years and now spray my paths and drive with a barrier weedkiller once or twice a season. I feel a profound sense of middle class guilt but this was trumped by the memory of hour after hour of hand weeding I used to suffer.
But my garden-hating friends were probably most put off by the lawn, and I can sympathise. At this time of year, you can almost see the thing growing back before you’ve put away the lawnmower. Indeed in recent years I’ve often had to continue to cut it throughout the winter too.
The good news is there are ways around this labour-intensive task. First you could swap it out for artificial turf. No, don’t look at me in horror. These products have come on leaps and bounds in the past couple of decades. We’re no longer talking about the stuff you see veg displayed on at the greengrocers. Instead, they actually look pretty realistic. And, best of all, no cutting needed – just the occasional brush.
Some people also recommend letting the lawn grow long – embracing the ‘wild’ look. Sadly whilst I think this can work away from the house in a large and sunny area, most of the time you will simply be left with something that looks like a weedy overgrown lawn in summer, and a patchy, scalped wasteland after it’s early autumn cut. Not ideal.
Personally I’m not rushing to either solution. I’m still holding out for a Trevor.
I should explain. Trevor, is not a man. Rather he is a robotic mower that I have been coveting.
I’m not sure why I called it Trevor. It just sounded like the name of a reliable chap. Someone who won’t let you down, or moan about a repetitive task. In fact Trevor is stoical. He knows when a job needs doing and he will simply get on with it. And yes, I do spend too much time talking to myself, but let’s gloss over that for now.
I have watched ‘Trevor’ at work many times. He is often busying himself when I pass on my dog walks. His workplace is a large front lawn of a bungalow in my village and there he toils, crisscrossing the space at seemingly random angles, but these are not random at all. No, Trevor is clever too. He’s worked out the most efficient way to get that lawn mown, and what’s more, he’ll get it done however often it needs it.
So this is what I will be adding to my Christmas list. And what I will be recommending to my friends as well. Because I think, once you have sat on a garden bench, glass of wine in hand, and watched Trevor at work, you will never be able to hate gardening again.