Out with the old

It’s that time for looking backwards and looking forwards at the same time, Janus-faced as we enter Janus’s month. Trying to avoid the same old mistakes, to do that which was left undone, and all the rest of it. So, here goes…

2014 was the most successful year of my professional gardening life. After a dreadful start, when the first three rain-sodden months yielded precious little work or income, things took off at Easter and my diary was full right up until mid-December. I enjoyed long summer days of mowing and weeding, and took on some new clients whose gardens have been a pleasure to work in. 

The new year looks set to be equally successful. I will remain a one-man-band – though I do occasionally think about taking on an apprentice at some point – but I will continue to learn and to grow as a working gardener. 

On the domestic gardening front, however, things went correspondingly less well. It’s a familiar theme of mine, but more paid gardening for other people only comes at a cost in terms of my own garden and allotment. So, my major resolutions for 2015 relate to this. I will get out in my own garden every day, even if only for 5 minutes, to check all is well, and to enjoy it. I will also get to the allotment at least once a week, again maybe only for a brief visit, but that will be better than the stretches of nothing that crept up on me in the autumn just gone. 

I really feel that, unless my own gardening is in order, it impairs my enjoyment of other peoples’ gardens, fuelled by what is, in effect, jealousy. Negotiating this – an inevitable consequence of doing something as a job that I also love as a pastime – is essential, and comes (I suspect) only with time. Nevertheless, I am determined to work hard at it this year.

Other resolutions are more confined and practical. There is an unattractive but essential job to be done in clearing the unacceptable amount of clutter which has accumulated at the bottom of the garden. I simply need to grit my teeth and get the rubbish – for it is essentially rubbish, even if most of it was left there ‘because it might come in handy one day’ – to the recycling centre. 

That job is a preliminary to demolishing the two increasingly decrepit sheds, and replacing them with a single bespoke building which will serve as garden/potting shed and store. At the same time I will create a modest ‘yard’ adjacent to the new building, which will provide a dry, hard-standing for outdoor jobs (such as potting-on) in good weather, as well as an area to store plants. 

That it turn will free space on the decked patio, which can then be better used as an outdoor living space for eating, entertaining and enjoying the garden. I will stop using the patio as a ‘holding area’ for plants en route to borders or clients’ borders, and thin out the pots around it to allow some nice plants to flourish and claim their moment in the sun (literally as well as metaphorically).

The lawns remain a question mark. Neither area of grass in my garden is of a decent standard to be called a ‘lawn’ really. But I am reluctant to lose them both. Over the past couple of years I have tried some re-seeding, but it’s not been a great success. I continue to toy with replacing the area nearest the house with artificial turf: which grates with my commitment to wildlife-friendly, organic gardening – but would keep the look of the thing, and is surely no worse than paving or gravelling the area? The other patch, under the large apple tree, and heavily trampled by children using the wendy house and the swing, may have to take its chances for a few summers, until such pursuits decrease and turf or seed has a half-decent chance of survival. 

I will try to buy fewer gardening books – though I cannot promise. I have always been a bibliophile, and will buy books whatever. 

I will make every effort to keep proper records of what I sow, plant and harvest – at least beyond the end of March, when previous years’ diaries tend to fall into neglect. I will also keep this blog more up to date – and use it as a diary, as well as a means to share my experiences with you, long-suffering readers. 

Finally, I will be a more generous gardener. My (sic) garden is actually our garden – my dear wife and splendid children own it too, even if their uses of it are often different from mine. The same is true of the allotment. Everyone needs to feel they belong, and that these spaces belong to them. That they sometimes don’t is my fault entirely, and I shall put that right. I will also be more generous with plants and produce. Visitors won’t leave empty-handed if I have young plants, cuttings, flowers or vegetables to spare.

I think that final resolution, which I hadn’t thought of when I sat down to write, will make me happiest of all.

I hope you have a wonderful 2015 in the garden and out of it.

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