Monday, January 2, 2012

Your Top Ten List of Post Christmas Gardening Excuses

It’s after dinner on Christmas day 1991 and I'm wearing baggy cream chinos and slip on loafers. I still have all my hair and it's cut into a dodgy post new romantic era high rise. My aunt looks me in the eye and shakes her head as her children storm around the hall on a collective e-number berzerker. They are screaming, spinning, lashing at one another and leaving little explosions of Christmas decorations in their wake. - “Mark my words,” she warns. “One day it’ll all come back at you!”

The ghost of Christmases past will confirm that my then favourite pastime at the annual extended family get together was to dose my juvenile cousins with fizzy cola and brightly coloured sweets before handing out pressies of toy bows and arrows, sucker dart guns and plastic swords. 

Then I’d sit back and watch the show.

Fill em up with E numbers, hand out the plastic weaponry and ....escape!!
Later there’d be filthies from the aunts and uncles as they attemped to crowbar their still spinning offspring into the car to get them home.

Twenty years on I have three children under ten and I’m the one reaping the whirlwind. These days as I run around trying to contain my own annual pint sized post dinner Christmas frenzies, the aunts sit and smile contentedly from easy chairs as their adult children run around to fetch them a Baileys.

Which brings me to gardening.

Mark this: despite what any gardening columnist tells you, there are few reasons to go outside and start digging in. In fact there is only one real reason why people get out gardening at this time of year and it is this – cabin fever. They do it to escape from the festivity jaded holiday season household in which everyone is stuck indoors and killing one another. For certain the January garden doesn’t need you out there stomping around, compacting the ground and generally making a nuisance of yourself by disturbing its dormant perennials.

Let's Get Gardening!!! You'll need a damn good excuse to justify this one.
Gardening expeditions at the latter end of the holiday season are entirely selfish. You’ll desperately need to flee – the bored kids, Noel Edmonds Christmas jumper, omnibus soap opera depression, the tweets, whistles and brain beating electro tunes of the new electronic toys whose batteries are fading but haven't quite died.

But in your rush to get outside always remember this: You can’t possibly abandon a similarly fraught spouse to his or her fate just to go and do some gardening. Not at least without a truly plausible excuse - or a full cast iron set of them.

The problem is that many of the “ten things” list of gardening excuses for early January as provided by some gardening columns I’ve read are just not very good at all and won’t pass the muster for a handy exit. For example, one English based online gardening site I looked at had the following in it’s “ten things to do in January” list: 6. “Ask the council if they are having a Christmas tree shredding event….” (??!!!) Another advises: 8. “Polish your garden fork and spade with oil.” Ha ha ha.

Remember that the key ingredients to a good gardening pass excuse are (a) urgency - it needs to be done now and (b) there must be a tangible benefit for the household collective. So lookit. If you can’t get a pub pass and need to get outside before your head explodes, here’s a good and proper excuse list containing ten rock solid plausibles that will, with certainty, guarantee your post Crimpo fleedom to the great out back.

1.    Remember that beautiful garlic we were eating last year? Well if I don’t get the coming year’s crop planted by the end of the week, it’ll be too late.
Most say November or December is perfect for garlic planting, but early January will do at a pinch for a last minute effort.

2.   If I don’t trim back those dead climbers, they’ll start taking over the whole garden. The garden will look much tidier without them and it's best to do it when they’re dormant.

Free all trapped gnomes from dead climber webs
3.  The fence and raised bed planks are showing signs of rot, if we leave them like that through the months ahead they’ll be gone by the summer. I’ll need to clean them off and paint them up with some wood stain before I go back to work – I’ll just run out to the hardware shop and get some environmentally friendly stuff like Procol Fencecote.

4.  Did you see that scrawny sparrow just then? Those poor birds are starving God love them! I’ll need to get up to the shops to get some nuts and wood to knock together some bird tables and hangers to save the poor things.

5.   Oh no! I forgot to sprinkle some well rotted manure on the vegetable beds. It takes a few months for it to get drawn down into the soil by the earthworms. Our soil is a bit tired. Unless I get some manure sprinkled on soon, it will be too late and this year’s home grown veg won’t be as good. I’ll have to go up to the garden centre to get some.

Waiting for the table - a starving birdie yesterday
6.   I've just read in the newspaper that it’s best to get those remaining weeds out in January when their growth has been slowed and when the ground is clear of most other growth. Strangling chickweed in particular is more vulnerable at this time of year says yer man - their garden guy in the funny hat.

7.  Did you notice that the Autumn leaves have turned into a slippy guck on the paths? That’s a bit dangerous alright for the kiddies. But if I shovel it all up into a bucket and get it into the compost, it will not only makes the path much safer, but will sort us out for some great free compost.

8.  Dang! I just remembered. The greenhouse panes and panels need to be washed out inside with a mild bleach. Otherwise any mildews, mould spores or insect eggs will remain active into the new year and that could create problems for our tomatoes.

Get the disinfectant to cull those greenhouse spores

9.  That garden shed needs a bit of a spring clean. I think I’ll bring the radio down there and get that job out of the way before I go back to work.  

10 . Do you fancy some nice fresh home grown garden fruit this summer? I’m reading here in the newspaper that now’s the time to buy in and plant your apple, pear and damson trees. Why don’t I just pop up to the garden centre and get some before they’re sold out?

Time for an early Spring Clean in the shed. Now where is it exactly?
Now all you need is an excuse not to bring the kids out with you. 

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