Getting to Grips with the Gardening
24 April 2015 | AdminNow that spring is well and truly underway, the time is ripe for the country’s amateur gardeners to get out into the greenery and get things ready for when barbeque season kicks off (as, in some areas it already has done).
Gardens come in many forms and so do the gardeners that tend them. If you aren’t sure what sort of gardener you are, you need only take a look at your garden to find out. Let’s examine some loose archetypes; perhaps you fit neatly into one of them, or perhaps you cannot be so easily pinned down to one area. If you are buying a gift for an avid gardener then check out our gardenware department.
A growing number of us have no garden at all. Recent history has seen more and more of us migrate away from the countryside and toward city centres. One consequence of this urbanisation is a lack of space. More and more of us are living in high-rise flats and even those of us who live at ground level often do not have luxury of a garden to call our own.
Even some of the gardens we do have are gardens in name only; it may have been paved over to serve as a makeshift driveway, or a dumping ground for all of the household rubbish too heavy to remove to the local tip.
Some of us who have a garden have barely acknowledged its existence and possess only the vaguest desire to see it prosper, maybe because of work and family commitments draining all of our time, or because of simple idleness, these gardeners never seem to get around to turning these thoughts into action and prefer instead to simply hope for rain.
Then there are the sorts of gardeners who actually do something to warrant the name, whether this be just the planting of a few token flowers, or occasionally taking the time to mow the lawn. If you are of a technical inclination, then you may have invested in some automated sprinkler and irrigation systems in order to monitor and maintain the health of your garden without having to get your hands dirty.
An enthusiast gardener takes gardening a great deal more seriously than the sorts of people we’ve thus far discussed. For them, gardening is a pastime to be actively enjoyed rather than endured for the sake of appearances. An enthusiast might maintain their own vegetable patch and eat fresh home-grown produce as a result of their endeavours. But just what, exactly, is so wonderful about this?
The practical gardener
Just as there are many different levels of commitment to gardening, there are also a range of different outcomes which that commitment might yield. Many people take a lot of pleasure from landscaping and maintaining their garden, adding plants and flowers that they prefer and creating a space that is unique and beautiful where then they can sit back, relax and enjoy the fruits of their labour.
It may be that all you wish of your garden is that it look good and provide you with a nice place to sit and enjoy your summer barbeques. It may, on the other hand, be that your requirements are more practical.
If this is the case, then you are in good company: more of us than ever are beginning to live the good life and grow our own vegetables. There are few more satisfying uses of a garden, after all, than to have it provide you with fresh produce all year round.
Contrary to what you might expect, doing this does not require a tremendous amount of time and resources – you can grow herbs in a window-box, or you can plot out a small farm at the end of your garden.
Let’s examine some of the main reasons that one might wish to take up gardening:
It’s better for the environment
For many, the best reasons for self-sustaining are environmental. If you grow your own tomatoes, for example, then you don’t have to go to the supermarket to pick them up. This means that you are totally removed from the system of globalised food transportation, whereby tomatoes are shipped across the world, often at enormous cost to the environment.
What sense does it make to transport something thousands of miles over land, sea and air, when it could instead be carried a matter of mere feet: from soil, to stove, to plate? And if the plight of the natural world isn’t enough to spur you to action, then perhaps you might contemplate the other impacts of this extra transportation when next you find yourself stuck in a traffic jam.
Home-grown is delicious
It may seem obvious to say that the overall quality of your food will depend hugely on the environment in which it was grown, but that doesn’t make it any less true. If you grow your own produce, then you have a huge amount of control over the conditions – if you do it right, you can end up with food which is tastier than ever.
Furthermore, if your food has to be packaged, transported and sold in a shop, then it will spend a lot of time between being harvested and being eaten. This is time where decay can set in – and this decay must be fought against using pesticides. By avoiding this cycle, you can be assured of exactly what has gone into growing the food you eat.
Home-grown allows for specialisation
The United Kingdom is enjoying something of a renaissance in home cooking at the moment and the supermarkets are responding by increasing the range of obscure ingredients. If you fancy black garlic, shitake mushrooms and blue pumpkin – you can have them. Unfortunately, many of these more peculiar foodstuffs are only available in very small quantities and are therefore more expensive. Why not instead grow your own specialist ingredients? Not only will the range of possibilities be greater than any retailer could practically offer and fresher, but they will be achievable at very low prices.
Home-grown allows you to save money
Another widely-touted benefit of home produce is that it costs a lot less than that which you get in the shops – in many cases, there is very little labour involved: you need only sow the seeds, water occasionally, sit back and wait for the results. To begin with, these results may be less than convincing and you’re bound to encounter a few bumps along the way. But that’s no reason to shy away; indeed, that’s part of the fun!
Home-grown is fun!
Finally, we come to what is perhaps the best reason to grow your own produce: the fun that can be had by doing so! For some, it is almost a spiritual experience. For others, it is just an excuse to muck about in the soil. Whatever the case, it’s certainly worth having a go – you never know how much fun you’re going to have until you’ve tried it!
Getting the garden ready for summer
May is an exciting time to be a gardener. Spring has, at long last, sprung; and flowers have begun to finally bloom. We are already enjoying the first few rays of sunshine and so barbeque season is just around the corner. Lawnmowers across the land are puttering into action and hose-pipes are being broken out of storage.
This means that there is plenty of work to be done if you want to keep your garden in good condition now that everything is growing rapidly again. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the jobs which need to be done.
Mow the grass
For better or worse, a well-maintained lawn is usually taken as a barometer of a homeowner’s pride (or lack thereof) in their garden. After all, if your guests arrive at your summer party to find that the lawn is an unkempt wilderness, they are unlikely to think highly of your gardening skills!
Weeds are a blight on any garden. There are a great many weed-killing formulas available, each with different levels of efficacy and there are a lot of home-made solutions as well – which employ every household substance from salt to alcohol to bleach to boiling water. The best way to rid yourself of weeds, however, is to get down on your hands and knees and uproot them.
Keep fruit protected
While frost at this time of year is rare, it can be very damaging to some varieties of fruit – tender ones like apples in particular. There are a number of different ways of preventing this. Potted fruits can be most easily protected, as they can be moved to somewhere safe when cold snaps are expected. For the less mobile fruits, covering with a horticultural fleece can provide some much-needed protection from the elements.
This job is only technically a gardening job, but it’s an important one all the same. At this time of year, houseplants will be starting to get a little thirstier. Ensure that they’re given some extra water in order to keep them in good shape.
Sow hardy annuals
Annuals – those plants which can be sown, flower and die all in the same year – are suitable for sowing in springtime when the soil temperatures have begun to climb. They are robust enough to withstand the light frost which occasionally comes about during this time of year.
Be sure that you properly weed and level the bed before you sow the seeds. From there you can either scatter the seeds over the bed, or drill them to just beneath the surface. The former is easier and quicker, to be sure, but the latter will make it easier to tell weed seedlings apart from the sowings when they have begun to come through.