Queen D is getting down and dirty this weekend. Bit of rubber wear, an exciting selection of tools and a lot of squelching around in beds for starters.
There’s nothing like a quick fork to get me going at this time of year, and once I’ve trimmed my bush I’ll be off to see what I can do with a big strong rake behind the shed….
Bit of a gallop up the garden path, as if you hadn’t guessed. Queenie is out and about gardening in her shrubberies whenever the sun wins the battle for sky space. Ye gods, it’s wet out there, but each day the rays stroke the soil it gets a touch less soggy. But whatever the weather, weeds flourish. They’ve spent the winter growing muscles under the snow, and if I listen carefully, I can hear the rampant buggers breeding. When they’re not procreating, they’re doubling in size and on the march. Gardening at this time of year is like arming up for battle. Murder the invaders! Slash this! Stab that! Poison anything stealthily creeping upwards. And while you’re at it, sever a few limbs and lop off heads. I’m currently planning to grab giant prongs and attack bedded-in buttercups the size of cabbages. It’s war out there.
If gardening doesn’t rock your boat, even a patch of grass is a pain in the arse. But it’s Queen D’s job to shove Shinies in directions they may not choose to travel, so this week I’m pushing you into gardening. If you’ve already got the bug, I couldn’t be more thrilled for you. If the delights of digging have so far passed you by, read on because Gardening is Good For You. Forget gasping round the gym and sobbing through therapy at a thousand quid a minute. You can gasp and sob in your own back yard digging out broken bricks and putting a fork through the water pipe for free. But once you’ve hacked your way through the undergrowth and cried over every broken nail, you’ll find you’ve lost five kilos and developed a mini six pack. Pushing barrows full of children around doesn’t just make you the best fun mum, it gets rid of bingo wings. And there is no better space for thinking time than your own garden.
Fantasies? I’ve had a few, but then again, too many to count. While in the garden rooting out invasive plants and digging graves…sorry, holes, with the sharpest of spades, Queen D has plotted the downfall of despots and the demise of several colleagues. There is no better way to focus the mind on how to get revenge than deadheading roses, I can tell you. So I’m pushing you outside the back door for your own good. And I don’t want any fuss. Gardening is a soft option compared with, say, dominatrix training, although I suppose there’s a level of controlled violence in both.
Picking up a fork for the first time is not necessarily fun. If, like me, you toddled around a patch of soil as a tot, pushing peas into holes dug by Grandpa’s dibber and picking raspberries as fast as you could eat them, the urge to cultivate is overwhelming.
But if the sum of your gardening experience is making daisy chains in the park, tending a garden is about as tempting as eating your own eyeballs. Even cutting grass is purgatory for the gardening averse. Grass spends half its year in a sea of mud just below water level and the other half as a fecund green tangle needing weekly mashing with a mower to stop it suffocating the children. It’s easy to see why so many gardens have plastic lawns and concrete flower beds.
But Shinies, don’t throw in the trowel. Seamus O’Hairy and his band of merry tarmaceers can wait while you step into your wilderness and consider a different future together. Out there, among the discarded prams, punctured footballs and mud-encrusted lego lie the seeds of happiness.
Tending a plot is not just about gardening and murderous thoughts. It’s about connection with the earth. It’s about getting in touch with our heritage, linking with our ancestors. It’s about mental health and physical wellbeing. Gardening is great therapy.
That’s about as heavy as London clay, but bear with, bear with. I know pulling on wellies and venturing out to battle with brambles on a Saturday morning doesn’t have the same appeal as a stroll by the river and pub lunch. But this is about investment with long term benefits.
Cultivate a garden, and you’ll enrich your mind, calm your soul and strengthen your body. There’s something so GOOD about growing things, especially stuff you can cook and eat, even if you have to slaughter half a ton of slugs to harvest three carrots and a lettuce.
It’s all very well waxing lyrical, but how on earth do you start in earth? Well, if you want to grow babies, you need fertile innards, and gardening is just the same. Invest in the plot. Grab a gardening book and draw up some kind of plan for the best garden womb you can afford. It’s clean up time. Get rid of the rubbish. Dig out the big baddies, dig in the muck and prepare to seed, weed and feed.
Start slowly. Don’t expect too much. Choose a few small plants and look after them well. Learn what they need. Learn who is a weed and who is not. Every gardener has tenderly nurtured a little seedling, only for it to grow like a triffid overnight and pull down a wall.
Get advice. Talk to gardeners. The ones who look like the BFG, bark and walk doubled over are treasure houses of garden wisdom and will give you free plants.
Even half an hour spent lost in a sunny corner, maybe tying in stems of a clematis covered in blooms as big as a hand, or filling a gap with a new rose, is precious thinking time to mull over holiday plans or think through a family problem. There’s something about nurturing new little green lives with their feet in the soil and heads in the sun which soothes the soul and puts us all back in touch with our roots.
And no excuses if there’s no plot to garden at your place. Grab a pot or two, or a window box, fill it with the best compost you can afford and grow herbs, or fuschias, or daisies. Grow something.
And remember, gardening can inspire great ideas. A friend had a lightbulb moment for a new business when she was planting runner beans. Beans need a wigwam of canes for support, and her five year old said he wanted a wigwam too. So, apparently, do lots and lots of five year olds according to her thriving business. So come on Shinies, get hoe hoe hoeing. There might be a pot of gold out there.