The softer, warmer light of late spring into early summer has found me of late, wandering between allotment beds in the evening. It’s about then that the heat of the day has subsided and the madness of the daily grind is behind me, leaving me free to relax and tend to the emerging new life that peeks out from the soil at my feet. The fresh seedlings hold promises of crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes and spicy radishes but then are as fragile as any new life and need tender care and gentle encouragement to not only survive but thrive. As well as hoeing carefully between the rows, regular watering is the key to success. Until the roots have established and developed a network of searching tips that draw up soil-locked moisture through the magical sounding process of osmosis, the plants are dependent on surface watering, either by rainfall or by our own hands, with a can or hose.
If you are able to provide watering, and not everyone is, then can I make a plea for the selection of a fine rose?
A rose in this instance, is the filter of sorts that regulates the flow of water from the can; much like a shower head does and, like a shower head, can come in a variety of flow speeds. Most, if not all manufacturers only supply the one basic rose with the can and then it’s quite often a poor choice.
If you can, try and buy a better quality one from a specialist outlet. A cheap rose that comes with the can is ok for heavy watering of established plants but is far too heavy for a fragile seedling. The last thing you should try to do is batter and drown a new seedling.
Once the seedlings have become plants, they can survive without our watering but ideally we want them to prosper not survive, so a good soaking if it hasn’t rained for a couple of days will help plump up the fruits and swell the vegetable roots. Remember, wind can be very drying as well as sun.
Anyway, back to the romantic imagery.
It’s a sure fire way to ease away the stress and strains of modern life, just wandering from bed to bed, border to border with a full watering can, dispensing life giving fluids to all your charges. The can dictates how fast the water flows, so it’s no use trying to rush about, you move at a slower pace, getting the job done eventually. The haste of the day slides away as you watch the water seep into the dry soil. If, like me, you have clay soil that can imitate house bricks, on a still day, if you listen very carefully, you can hear a soft hissing sound as the soil sucks the water up. If it is quiet enough for you to hear it, then relish the peace and tranquillity while you can for as much as responsibility and reward may drive the wheels of industry, the task of watching over all your young new shoots as the struggle for life dwarves the banality of the wage earning mundane day to day existence and that moment when you hold the world in a silent capsule of greenery and innocence disappears as fast as the water.
But beware the horrors of the garden, the disappointment that hides behind each glorious success. Nothing can compare to the soul destroying, plummeting feeling that engulfs you when you discover something evil has chewed the only leaves off your Lettuce or nibbled through the stem of your Swiss chard. Slug pellets work for me but I try to use those that claim to be child and pet friendly. That is somewhat an empty claim if you either keep molluscs as pets or you are a mother snail. Meanwhile other less sinister alternatives are available to try to limit the damage of the slimy enemy, including stale beer, mashed bran or crushed egg shells. I have neither the time nor patience to dry and finely crush egg shells and I have yet to leave a beer unfinished so I find pellets, organic and friendly, the best option for me. The only bran I see is at breakfast and the jury is out as to whether it would be tastier for the slugs than it is for me.
When you have finished the watering, hoeing between the developed rows and tying in any loose climbers, it’s hard to resist leaning on your hoe and looking smug and satisfied with yourself. Enjoy that moment, take a picture while the plot looks tidy and fresh and all in order, because overnight the weeds will double in number, the seedlings will no doubt collapse or be eaten and the shorn grass paths will adopt the guise of some African high grass plain with a sward that could hide a battalion of tanks. Good soil for growing plants is good soil for all plants, wanted or not, friend or foe and weed or selected specimen and your grassy footpath is a mass of individual plants and creeping low shrubs that thrive on abuse and neglect.
Then, as the last good light disappears behind the house tops and the cold of night starts to descend, it’s good to stroll back home and settle in with a long cold beer and a comfortable sofa, after all, there is plenty of stress and struggle to come tomorrow before you can get back to the sanctuary of the soil. Maybe stroll out, if you have one, to the patio at home and take it the beauty of the suburban landscape you have created.
There, the gentle rising warmth of the late evening sun in the garden helps release the scents of the garden, the soft tones of the Evening Primrose and the spice of the Madonna Lilies mingle with hints of summer Jasmine, if the stench of paraffin soaked barbeques hasn’t wafted over the fence. The gentle trickle of water from a fountain playing on the surface of the pond helps to wash away the tensions of the office and the drive home, while a nice cold glass of something will quench the thirst that you share with your plants.
Summer lasts too short a time and, although autumn brings with it the russet shades of leaves and orange and yellows that mimic the bonfires, it will too soon be time to clear away the remains of the salad crops, start digging over the beds and borders and prepare the garden and plot for it's winter sleep. Until then, let's just reveal in the glory that we have.