Property: Turfed out before the big kick-off

ON WEDNESDAY the world's greatest sporting event finally gets under way. After months of preparation, heartache and sheer endeavour, the modern-day gladiators will finally be allowed to step into their arena and do battle.

Yes, the Getitcheap Garden Centre annual sale finally kicks off and dozens of players from all over East Sheen will be scrambling to win the coveted Jules Rimet Trophy Tomatoes at never-to-be-repeated rock-bottom prices.

Once again the favourites are the flamboyant Fletcher family from Teddington Terrace. They will, no doubt, be sambaing their way to success with their total bargain-hunting approach to sales shopping. With their famous two- for-one formation, they are the pundits' pick to walk away once more as winners.

I sadly failed to make it through the qualifying rounds. Drawn against the dour and defensive Darwins, I lost in an agonising penalty shoot- out at the HomeGrown Products Winter Clearance. I have therefore spent a desolate few weeks wandering around the garden centres of west London whistling "I'm Growing Home" and wondering what might have been.

I know that Gazza and Romario are a little dejected but at least their team mates will be there. I, for my part, have had to make do with paying full prices for a variety of vegetation knowing full well that in a few days' time I could be competing for the Big Bargains.

Still, I must not dwell on the past. The big advantage of an early exit from the competition is that my vegetables are safely planted and well on their way to being organically farmed.

Gardening is the one big pleasure of home ownership which I really miss. Few things are more satisfying than feeding the starving birds, slugs and other assorted plant eaters of the neighbourhood.

I remember once in those heady days when I had my feet firmly on the bottom rung of the property ladder trying to grow a lawn from seed. It felt a bit like opening a McDonald's in Moscow, feeding the five thousand and appearing in a Hitchcock film all at the same time.

What surprised me was how quickly word got round the local bird community that breakfast was being served in Primrose Hill. No sooner had I retreated indoors to admire my handiwork than the ornithological equivalent of the Luftwaffe arrived diving, strafing and then gorging themselves on my Bermudan Blue All Purpose Lawn In A Box.

I had a similar experience last weekend when I purchased three allotments in a bag and filled them full of seeds, seedlings and plantlings.

Compared to the monotony of grass seeds, this was the equivalent of a gourmet feast with about nine courses and as many slug pellets as you can manage. The birds had a great time although I suspect that some of the slugs overdid it; they looked like death the next morning.

Whether anything edible will ever emerge from my bags I cannot tell. I certainly had fun with the plantation process and I can now hold my own at The Fount Of All Knowledge amateur gardener nights.

The Harvest is not due for some time. But I am a patient man and if I get bored I can always watch the World Cup.

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