From city to county
PUBLISHED: 12:00 13 July 2015
How does the garden grow, asks our columnist James Matthews as he embarks on a summer of weeding and mowing.
I mentioned a couple of months ago that, at the age of 31 and after a decade living in a London flat featuring what estate agents would optimistically advertise as a “cosy” balcony, I found myself standing in my own, somewhat overgrown, garden wondering what one actually has to do to manage the upkeep.
I’d grown up seeing my parents potter around the garden on a sunny afternoon. Mum would be on her knees planting bulbs around the border while Dad walked up and down with the mower, before moving on to an equally manly task involving a leaf blower or a deadly electric strimmer. But, despite this, I’d developed a misconception that gardens just, well, looked after themselves. The jungle in front of me suggested otherwise.
I’m not talking acres here. A sizeable but very manageable lawn, a few flower beds and a couple of trees at the bottom of the garden marking the end of our land and the beginning of our neighbour’s. But after weeks of worrying about what colour we should paint the hallway in our new home, whether we wanted a round or square dining table and what size of sofa would fit in the lounge (French Grey, square and a three-seater... just) we hadn’t noticed the springtime weeds slowly taking over our already “mature” garden.
To me, good gardening is getting the lines on your lawn as straight as possible, which is where I would have started had I actually owned a lawnmower. In fact I didn’t have any of the long list of alien garden tools my mother effortlessly reeled off, “Oh, and you’ll need some secateurs to cut back that honeysuckle,” vaguely nodding in the direction of what I had assumed was a weed, “because that’ll be flowering soon”.
I just about stopped myself laughing out loud when she pointed at a large square patch of soil at the bottom of the garden, “And that looks like it was a vegetable patch. You’ll have to plant some veg in there.” I reminded her we had three good value supermarkets within walking distance (understanding full well that wasn’t the point).
Fortunately, the start of our garden challenge was nicely timed with a spring bank holiday weekend, which taught us a big lesson in what the majority of Norfolk seems to do on a sunny bank holiday - visit the garden centre.
And don’t let the fact I only came away with a brand new gas barbecue from that particular visit fool you into thinking I’m not up to this green-fingered challenge. I’ve since tugged up my fair share of weeds - and unfortunately a couple of (what I’ve been told would have been) rather nice plants. And after finally inheriting a lawnmower, I take pride in having some of the straightest lines in Norfolk. Now I apparently need to “turn” the soil in my vegetable patch - and once I work out exactly what that means I’ll get right on to it.