After such a horrible spring, my garden is just beginning to liven up and a quick tour around the patch has revealed a bountiful harvest there for the picking. But it will have to wait until tomorrow because I am busy, with yet another pre-Christmas affair. Just when my garden needs me the most we are about to enter the busiest season on the whole calendar.
It doesn’t seem fair. I have planned and plotted for months and months. I’ve tended and nurtured all my favourite foods and coaxed them into life. I have protected them from the worst of the weather, often at great risk to myself, like the time I was caught in an aluminum greenhouse in an electrical storm, although I did throw caution to the wind when the hail started to bombard my tender young seedlings hardening off outdoors.
The effort I have put in with all the digging and weeding and enriching with poo – actual poo, from sheep and chickens! You have to be a hardy gardener to be prepared to be dealing with poo as part of your schedule. I squish bugs with my bare fingers – although not slugs. Don’t do that, the slime is impossible to get off. I go over and above the call of duty to ensure my garden flourishes and just when it is at the peak of perfection – ripe for the picking – BAM! Someone sticks a festive season right in the middle of my carefully timed and balanced growing season.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas just as much as the next person, and time away at the beach creating priceless memories with the ever so quickly growing kids is something to treasure… But my garden… it needs me right now. It is in a vulnerable state.
So I need to become militant about it. I need to a strategic plan with precise details. First I need to keep on top of the weeds. Every day I need to go out there and remove the little ones that dare show their heads, because one extended shopping extravaganza and a late night festive foray requiring a bit of a lie down the following day is just what those weeds need to get a foothold and commence a silent takeover bid with millions of seeds and sneaky underground roots.
Then I need to make sure I have the irrigation sorted. The weather is all over the place and it always seems to rain when the best Christmas party of the whole season is outdoors and the only shelter is a spindly tree or small beach umbrella someone brought along hoping for shade. But it really can’t be relied on to keep the garden hydrated. It somehow knows when you want it to come and when you don’t and it does the opposite. Having said that, while you are sheltering under a twig in your best party frock, the rain will be giving your garden the kind of soaking that a hose can only dream of delivering.
Having a plan is good here, a complete system on a timer is best, but is also a luxury. A friendly neighbor is a great resource that will often work for zucchini, which is a blessing in disguise. Failing that, large plastic milk bottles with pin holes in the bottom and filled with water, buried near your precious plants will prevent them from completely drying out while you are off being a social butterfly or bedraggled shopper.
The other plan you need to consider is the reason for the garden in the first place. You need to keep on top of the harvesting. The plants don’t actually know why they are there. They are of the understanding they are there to set seed and procreate. A thousand cabbages to dominate the land. They are completely misguided and are being manipulated, because with each harvest you make, the plant will think it has failed in its mission and attempt to set more seed. So the more you harvest the more you get. If you allow the social whirl that is the holiday season to keep you from the garden for more than two or three days in a row, the plant will achieve its ambition and stop giving you the goods a lot earlier than expected. If you can’t find the time yourself, then to ensure the continued supply of your harvest beyond the holidays, enlist someone to help you.
Of course the best place to do you Christmas shopping is somewhere you can cultivate an interest in the future caregivers for your garden. It is in my best interests to share the seeds of love and get anyone and everyone to learn to love gardening at much as I do. I’m off to the garden centre and there may even be a treat for me there. Let’s face it, after such a traumatic spring, I deserve it.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Sarah the Gardener : o )