We’ve always had a garden since our first house in Sandbach in 1968. There is always something to do in a garden, and yet if you go away for a while it usually survives – in our case often thanks to a helpful neighbour – although afterwards there may be more urgent things to do.
For me it just happens – a realisation of what is to be done next. Mow the lawn, stake things that are falling over, watering, weeding, feeding, managing the compost heap, planting, tidying, pruning, potting, picking fruit… The garden is a process, and I am just a part of that process, along with the weather, soil, plants, pond, insects, birds and so on.
It’s nothing special, our garden. Not too neat. A bit shaggy and unkempt. Fairly overgrown bits left for some creature or other. Occasional regret at uncovering a hiding frog or newt who makes a dash for the pond. Always wondering what to do with the odd snail – move it and hope a thrush finds it?
I avoid like the plague the plethora of chemicals that can be applied to the garden to kill this, that or the other. If things don’t like where they are or are susceptible to pests, then maybe they’re in the wrong place. Caterpillars can be a nuisance, but then are the moths and butterflies? So where would we be without them? And how do you know what you are killing with those chemicals?
Birds bring special life to the garden, so I like to encourage them with food, drink, nestbox and birdbath. What joy they bring! As does the squirrel, despite his pesky habit of getting at the bird food. We miss him now, and the field mouse, there are none currently around here. Where did they go?
In our years of having a dog, it was difficult to keep a gap for hedgehogs and frogs to move around from garden to garden. Now they’re rare, maybe because not enough gaps were left by people in their ubiquitous fences. But they’re part of a garden as well.
The thing about the garden – all is temporary, like sand sculptures. Beauty one minute gradually dissolves into dishevelment and occasional ugliness. So there’s always things to do.
There’s a modern trend to save labour in the garden through such as stone patios, decking and artificial grass. But then it’s not a living garden, part of nature; it’s part of the built environment – increasing the evident alienation with our essential selves, which are after all a part of nature. It’s the wrong way to go.
Better to just get out there and garden, a bit at a time, just to remember who and what you are, and just to be. You’ll often find a friendly robin comes along to keep you company.
Or if you really can’t find the time, employ a gardener!