I’ve always been obsessed with plants so it was no surprise to me at all that as soon as we bought our first house, I developed a real love of gardening. Gardening as a mother has always been tricky though. In my previous life I was able invest solid hours or days out in my patch of the outdoors, doing whatever I needed to. But that freedom of personal time is rare now and needs to be spread across more activities than just sorting out the plants. That said, I have struggled over the last few years because the garden has never felt like ‘mine’ since we moved in. Now Little Z is older, I felt this year was the time to change that and, as mentioned earlier in the year, I took some drastic decisions to cut out some invasive and dominating shrubs before the garden came into itself. Then I also used some of childfree pre-return to work time to set the garden up to grow more vegetables and fruit; a process that more than anything else was good for my mind, body and soul!
It may not be a massive garden but I feel like I am making really good use of the space this year. I have been trying to adopt a couple of ‘matras’ from Latitia Maklouf – who I am now a massive fan of – namely to just spend 5 minutes in the garden each day if nothing else and also that May is the time to pour energy into the garden to ensure it lives up to one’s hopes through the summer. So time and care it has been given through the month of May! The vegetables are all coming along well. The potatoes are fantastic – I keep going out just to touch the beautiful foliage! Hopefully there is a decent crop growing underneath. The onions are really starting to swell too which I love seeing as my one previous attempt at onions in the old garden failed miserably! A couple of weeks ago I put the courgettes, french climbing beans and tomatoes out; they are still establishing themselves but seem to be heading in the right direction…or so I hope. Unfortunately the cucumbers quickly withered away when I hardened them off and I decided to abandon those this year, as I did the leeks a couple of months ago. The strawberries have also been very slow to seed, so I bought a tray of small plants from B&Q so Little H will be more likely to get some fruit.
The beds are starting to look wonderful to balance out the veggies. Since we cut down the large pyracantha, the plants I put in over the last few years have started to come-up with more vigour. The giant daisies are now getting plenty of light; there is a reasonable sized patch of Japanese anemone which I absolutely adore but has never managed to flower in this garden (will this year be the one?!); the euphorbia has a couple of strong heads of blooms having been hidden in the overgrowth until early spring. I have also planted out the camelia into the back of the border as it was starting to look unhappy in it’s pot. From my research it prefers ericaceous soil – a consideration I have never bothered with in the past using just a standard multi-purp compost for everything. But I popped down to B&Q (again!) and bought a bag meaning that I could dig a good amount into the hole and mound some around the base of the plant. It does seem to look happier now!
My other major change is my approach to watering and feeding. I’ll confess that in my rushing around state, I always found watering a chore and didn’t do it often. Which is less of an issue with beds but veggies and plants in pots need to be given water. So every couple of days (or more if it’s very hot or windy) I go out and give them a good, deep drink. The water butts got well used and we almost drained them dry, so I was very glad of some recent rain to fill them up to about 1/3 – 1/2 full again. I have also been taking the professional advice offered by people such as Latitia and feeding my plants weekly with a seaweed based food. I have the tomato feed to hand for once the tomatoes, courgettes, beans and strawberries start fruiting. But even the shrubs and flowers look far perkier now they are being given some sustenance…unsurprisingly! (I’ve also got into more of a routine of feeding my house plants too and the change there has been even more noticeable. The moral: don’t starve your plants!)
I do need to spend a little bit of time on the front garden next through. The drive needs weeding and since I am trying to avoid using pesticides, I’m going to have to get into the habit of doing it by hand. I also have a “vision” for the front. At the moment the lawn is a bit iffy and tends to turn into a jungle with the slightest bit of warmth and rain. So I am considering digging out an oval shaped bed in the front garden. But it may well be best to leave it until the autumn so that I can leave the earth to break down naturally with the winter frosts!
That is the beauty of gardens though – they are ever changing and evolving so the work to care for them is never done. Whilst at times I feel weary and wish I didn’t have to bother, I know that if I neglected it and my plants were to suffer then I would feel terribly sad. So it always draws me out to it. It always offers me more work than I can manage. But it always offers me a haven to relax, switch off and enjoy the beauty of the natural world! Let’s just hope it gives us some good potatoes…