My So-called Life: It's time to dish the dirt on gardening

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The Independent Online

Will someone please, please start telling the truth about gardening?

Will someone please, please start telling the truth about gardening? I really can not bear it anymore, all the lies, all the propaganda, that if you do this or that then this or that wonderful thing will happen and your sweetpeas will riot colour all summer long. It doesn't happen. It is open warfare out there. It is a battle to the death. Do not be deceived, no matter what the Montys or the Diarmuids or the Alans say; not that I ever listen to what Alan says, too bewitched as I am by his unique gift of somehow making his own hair look like a wig. Can you take your eyes of it? However, here is an edited extract from my own book - Gardening: The Whole Shocking Truth - which involved no hard, undercover work at all, as that would have been tiresome, but nevertheless still tells it exactly as it is:

The Basic Laws of Gardening

Plants which you want to thrive will die whereas those that you want to die, like that bastard Japanese knotweed, will thrive. Similarly, snails will only like plants that you like. Stamp on snails by all means. You do not have to retch when the shell crushes underfoot but it may be unavoidable.

Go out to accomplish one task in the garden and you will note 789 others that need doing urgently, if not before. A garden always has the upper hand and it never bores of telling you so. Mine even laughs in my face.

A bulb is something you bury in the autumn, never to be seen again, unless a squirrel digs it up and dances along the window sill with it clasped between its cute little paws to torment you further. Act quickly: get out your shotgun and blow its brains out.

A garden will consume all your cash and gobble up your credit cards and enslave you while all the time you somehow think you are spending nothing and isn't nature such a free and wonderful and liberating thing. Don't answer the door, it could be the bailiffs.

Now - what to do in May. May is always a busy time in the garden unless, of course, you are simply waiting for the happy day when someone comes along to blow it up (praise the Lord!) or do it for you, like a proper husband who doesn't say "I'll do it" while lowering himself purposefully into an armchair and switching on the telly.

Grass

Now is the month to start mowing, and do so once a week. On the other hand, if you've never had your mower's blades sharpened in all the years you have owned it, then what is the point? You might as well be out there with a butter knife and a pair of children's scissors. Alternatively, install a goal and a small boy and almost instantly the lawn will be transformed into a mud bath, nice and squidgy in winter, baked and crumbly in summer. Either way, this technique will also ensure that a little of the garden nicely comes inside every time he tramps mud through the kitchen, down the hall, up the stairs, into his bedroom, into the bathroom, into your bedroom, back down the hall, into the living room, round his friend's house, back home again...

Weeds

Show no mercy. They are the devil's work. Nuke. Do not hoe. If God had wanted us to hoe, he'd have given us cast iron, hinged backs. Hoes are the devil's work. Hoes and weeds. Nuke. Japanese knotweed. Nuke four times and then beat with a shovel.

Borders

May is the month for seeds. Buy lots of new packets then put them into a kitchen drawer with all the packets you bought last year and the year before and the year before that but never got round to sowing, even though you thought about sowing them quite a lot, and have fantasised about vegetable plots and home-grown carrots. This shows good intentions of the kind that can only otherwise be shown by joining an expensive gym and never going. I sincerely believe that the first company to develop seeds that can germinate in kitchen drawers and push their spindly shoots though dead batteries, old guarantees, rubber bands, mysterious, unidentified keys and useless scraps of leftover wrapping paper will be onto a certain winner.

Pruning

What's all that about? You grow things, you love them, you care for them, you cherish them, they make your heart sing ... and then you're expected to slash them to the root? Get outta here! Is someone taking the piss?

Water features

To further detract character from your garden, a nasty B&Q barbecue left out all winter and now filled with rainwater, floating rusty bits and little water flea thingies is a very effective and cheap option.

Squirrels

An equal mix of Dettol and white vinegar is good for removing bloodstains from windowsills. Always wear Marigolds when peeling those cute little paws from the bulb.

Pots

Resist growing spectacular stand-alone architectural or rare plants in pots as your son's football will get them and you will find it hard not to cry or ask Islington Social Services to take him into care.

Garden centres

This is their busiest time of year, but do not impulse buy without first touring a few council estates to double check what is common. Can you believe I once bought a Pieris Forest Flame thinking it was the height of cool? D'oh! Never settle for anything half-hardy. Insist on the other half. Further, in the interests of getting by with the minimum amount of gardening work possible, ask to be directed to any plants that can be killed by kindness, and purchase 456.

'Gardening: The Whole Shocking Truth' is available from Ross Publishing at £345. Steep, I know, but it is the whole shocking truth, and not just part of it. No corners have been cut, as that would involve a strimmer, and strimmers are the devil's work, making noises that set your teeth on edge and throwing bits of stone into your eyes. Free small boy, goal and football for first reader to order

d.ross@independent.co.uk

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