Here on Pig Row daylight that only a few weeks ago faded to sepia and then black as I was stuck in rush hour is now with me as I walk between the growing beds. I potter and poke at the gardener’s worst enemy, the thuggish weed. These weeds are not annuals; these weeds will not be destroyed by shearing them off with a sharp hoe on a sunny day.  These thugs of the weed world have been known to overwhelm new gardeners and make the most hardened of old timers sigh and lock away their hoe and daisy grubber. I have seen gardeners cry at the sight of dandelion infested plots. I have seen them bawl at the merest sign of horsetail. I have heard them run from their gardens screaming when faced with bindweed.

I started gardening several years ago and back then I started with an allotment. This was before the mass drive to grow your own and the ever increasing waiting lists. Back then I had to balance it between my day job, my growing family and my eager friends. This meant my plot suffered because like all new gardeners I saw it as a hobby. There is no such thing as a hobby. Anybody who is accused that their passion is a hobby will flinch at the very thought of what they do is somehow segregated from the rest of their life. It is true that as a gardener you can lose yourself, relax and lose all sense of time but it isn’t a hobby. Hobbies don’t expect you to dig drainage ditches in winter or double dig in autumn. Gardening is hard but anything that is hard is worth doing.

I remember the first vegetable seeds I grew, peas, they rotted, I spent weeks watering them, nurturing them, keeping them warm and the little buggers did nothing. That is a hard pill or pea to swallow, it is so easy just to give up and go back to your rush hour dreams.

Rush hour and the daydreaming that happens behind each wheel is a hobby.

The act of daydreaming is a hobby but taking that step into something real, something tangible is not a hobby, it is hard and I applaud anyone who takes that step.

I took that step with my first allotment. There I was in my car, daydreaming, stuck in traffic but with new gardening tools in the boot. I had great plans for the plot; there would be rhubarb just like the type my dad grew, towards the dry, sheltered end would go all my salads just like my great grandfather grew for his fruit and vegetable shop. The traffic would move and I would park up, with a pocketful of daydreams and off I would trot down the path to the allotment gate, slide back the bolt and jog downhill to my plot only to find yard after yard of brambles and horsetail.

In the end this allotment won, not because I couldn’t clear it but because it was too far away and I could not integrate gardening into my day to day life.

It was my first and last hobby.

Weeds destroy dreams and hobbies.

Hurrah for weeds!

They set aside those who want to grow and those who want to garden. At Pig Row in the first season I was introduced to one of the thugs of the weed world, rose willow herb. For those of you who don’t know it, you will have seen it by most canals, a willow wand weed that burgeons with pink flowers in summer. It is a thing of beauty but beneath this is foot after foot of fleshy root. Each slice of the spade, each turn of the fork and the root splits, sprouts and a new weed is born. All the beds at Pig Row were full of it in the first year we were here; it is still part of the garden today. Most people would have given up, concreted the garden and taken up model boat building. As an organic gardener I could have mulched, covered with plastic or turned the power of pigs.

I used a weedkilller.

There I’ve said it. My dirty little secret is out.


I know what you are going to say.

I’m going to tell you something else. Life is too short.

I am not an indiscriminate sprayer of weedkillers.

It is dangerous to think that spraying your entire garden will eradicate all your weeds. It will kill everything in your garden. That’s what weedkillers do, they do not discriminate, I know this. I have seen friends who have turned to these helpful bottles of hope only to phone me up a few days later to ask why all their favourite flowers are now ex-favourite flowers.

The answer is in the product: weedKILLER.

There are times when you have no choice but to use weedkillers but my advice it that you paint them on. Wear gloves, a mask and daub those weed leaves with the killer potion. It is a simple trick and means that you are only targeting the thugs of the weed world.

I would only do this once.

I only did this once when I inherited Pig Row because the weeds weren’t just a problem, they were the only plant in the garden. I could have spent season after season battling the rose willow herb. It would have meant no gardening. It would have just been a war. It would have been childish. It would have been a hobby.

Life is too short. So don’t feel guilty for using a weedkiller on a plot that is simply out of control. Or buy some pigs. 


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