Saturday, 19 February 2011


How to be a gardener, as well as an artist, and not flip!  Here is a picture (below) of my strawberry bed which I have to cover with sticks, in a futile effort to keep of the neighbourhood cats - they love it!

Its the time of year again, February, when here in South of England the gardens are burgeoning!
I am continually faced with the problem of working on my oil paintings while also keeping my garden and my allotment - well, I wont say 'under control' because they never are, but at least not too chaotic.

You might have the same problem?


Do you have a job and have to commute? Do you work from home perhaps?  I include in the 'job' category, looking after a family or -  eek!  - trying to cope with a new baby!

So anyway, if you are very busy, you might think it would be good to get away from the pressures and potter about in a garden.  Not possible!  You might get away, but it is far from a serene experience.

Don't believe what you read.  Gardening is not therapeutic or restful, or rewarding.  It is pure hard slog, very complex and confusing and - at any rate here in the UK, it is in the 'lap of the Gods', as they say, because the weather always defeats your efforts.  For instance today its raining, tomorrow its raining and probably the next day, and the day after that.  In Scotland its snowing!

How do you cope?

Here I will let you into a secret - first, and most important,  you must be an optimist.

Second - you must have a bit of spare cash - dosh - moolah - say it how you will.

Third - you will have to adjust to the fact that your friends, family, mum, kids, the cat - will not help you in the slightest.  Its all up to you.

In January, just gone, the weather was pretty dreary so you had a good excuse  not to do anything except make mental good resolutions about sorting out the seed collection,  and looking out of the window at the rain/sleet/snow.


In February,  oh dear!  You might decide you have to think about doing something.  

My grotty garden in February, above

The journals and newspapers are full of beautifully illustrated ideas about spring planting, and how to renovate your lawn  - I suggest you ignore all bright ideas like these.  I am sure those photographs were taken at the peak of the growing season by a top photographer, of a garden which has a staff of 15.  Ignore the photos!

What to do now? Royal Horticultural Society tells you what you should be doing, do you can feel guilty not doing it!



Tip 1, you can make a trip to your local garden centre, if you have one, and see if they are selling off any plants at 50% off.  I bought three nice roses this year, in large pots, for £3 each.  Thus saving money, although of course I didn't really. 
I also bought five raspberry canes,  Glen Clova, for just a couple of pounds.  Fruit bushes are also reduced in the garden centre.

In addition, at the beginning of February my local garden centre sells vegetable and flower seeds at half price.  They might be last year's stock but don't let that worry you.  You need to save every penny in this game.

The next job for you, if you have built up a collection of seeds from previous years, get them out of their boxes and check them over.

I keep all seeds in plastic boxes and in a small freezer.  I did in fact buy a small freezer partly to store seeds - mad or what?


Here is Tip 2.  Each packet of seeds has its packing date and 'use by' date in small letters on the back.  I write the date of packing, in felt tip on the front.  Then in theory I chuck out the old ones when I do the sorting.  Its easier to read the date on the front of the packet than the back, especially when you are in the midst of deciding what to sow.

Don't be a sucker though, (like me), just firmly sort and throw away.  I hardly ever do this because I have found that tomato seeds, for example, seem to keep fertility for years.  I guess the vigour is impaired a little but REMEMBER - YOU HAVE TO WATCH THE PENNIES IN THIS GAME.

February Fill Dyke is the expression here in England, and because of the rain filling the dykes, the ground is too soggy to dig.  However, the weeds and grasses are growing like billy-oh and soon you will not be able to resist the thrill of weeding, and therefore giving the impression that - yes - you are in control!
A allotment garden (or as it is now called, a 'leisure garden' - what a laugh) from happier days last summer before we lost the World Cup football games in South Africa.  It's not my allotment garden, as mine never looks that well-kept.


Oh, and Tip 3, if you want to try growing potatoes now is the time to buy seed potatoes, as they are called.  These are usually much cheaper if you can joint your local allotment society, and buy them there.  If you are lucky enough to be able to make a trip to your local allotment, you should find that the allotment holders (as they are called) have a society which bands together and makes orders in bulk for seed potatoes, as well as fertiliser, compost, and strange odds and ends like liners for hanging baskets.

I belong to two allotment societies, as well as having my own allotment.  I have over-bought the seed potatoes, of course, as I usually do.  At present they are ornamenting the floor of one of the rooms in the house, in plastic trays.  Its difficult not to trip over them and they will be there until it is much warmer.  Easter time is the traditional time to plant them.

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