My Little Paddler is my super baby. She really is. We are absolutely blessed to have her. Some days though we have to remind ourselves of that. Because, if I’m honest, some days are just tough going. She is constantly growing and learning and developing. It is truly amazing how she soaks things up. And if you think about all a baby/toddler’s brain has to cope with, you too might find yourself a little cranky. So some days we just hang out and nurse and snuggle up. The coffee can grow cold and a bowl of plain pasta or some brown bread and butter will do for lunch because I have learnt that going with the flow is easier than trying to force her into my routine on those days.
So, you may have guessed that I do not always have as much time as I’d like in the garden. To be brutally honest some days I am more than happy to have an excuse not to be out. The jobs can be daunting, the weeds relentless and the digging and lifting heavy especially with a toddler strapped onto my back. I’d rather bake a cake and eat it while I dream about how this place could be if only I could get my act together. Besides, if I got all the jobs done today, then what would I do tomorrow?
Recently, I pulled Clare Matthews book, The Low Maintenance Vegetable Garden down off of the shelf. It’s a book written for people like me. Where others might say ‘lazy gardener’, I prefer “clever gardener”. She is all about the clever gardening. “Grow a high proportion of undemanding crops that deliver a prodigious harvest for the minimum of work, especially if you are a beginner. These generous, forgiving plants are the mainstay of the low maintenance vegetable plot. Avoid the unreliable, demanding prima donnas of the vegetable world.” Sounds simple. Stupid simple some might say. But it’s like being given permission. Why try reinvent the wheel? I have nothing to prove to anyone else. Let’s start simply, with things that will be a success and build my confidence to try some slightly more adventurous plans once I’ve found my feet.
But what to plant? Clare has that covered in her What To Grow. She breaks her plant choices down into Very Easy, Easy and Fairly Easy. I knew she was a girl after my own heart. She even has a section called What Not To Grow. I’m liking her more and more. As she goes through each vegetable, fruit and even edible flower, she discusses varieties, whether to sow seeds or buy plants, when to plant, when to harvest, good varieties to try, common problems, ideal conditions and maintenance tips. She even suggests how many plants to get. Now that’s a super idea. Don’t do like I did, and end up with six courgette plants for two people. There are really only so many stir fries, chutneys or cakes that you can really make.
What about where to plant? How to plant it? What tools for the job? Clare has your back. She has everything you would expect to find in a beginner’s gardening book. She covers tools, pests and diseases, compost and what may be my holy grail – no-dig gardening. Her first section is all about beds and soil and how to build both. She has a lovely layout in her garden and it’s nice to see more unusally shaped beds as an option. I love the use of varied screening and timber or rope trellises for climbers, shelter, privacy and denoti g different areas. Now I will say that her beds and garden structures are expensive looking. She certainly didn’t knock them up from bits lying around. And even her paths are very well put together – she explains how to do them. But I won’t be doing ours that way. Mostly because I can’t afford those kinds of raw materials. But that’s just me. I do love the photos showing how she expanded the garden. I actually love her photos in general.
She has lots of photos. Of everything. Now, her pictures look a tad more pristine than mine might. For a start, I get no sense that the photo angle has been carefully chosen so as to eliminate the pile of builder’s rubble which hasn’t been removed yet or to avoid the clump of thistles in the background. Just for the record, my thistles are especially cultivated for biodiversity and that’s the story I am sticking to! But I digress. Her photos are clear and beautiful and educational. The book is beautiful yet really practical. Not quite coffee table book quality but I prefer practical and informative if I have to choose.
My one issue with the book is that she advocates a lot of buying the plants in. While it’s certainly easier than sowing seeds and waiting/hoping for germination, it is definitely a more expensive way to go. And if you don’t know it by now, I’m broke. It’s packets of seeds for me.
But, that is minor really when compared with the wealth of information laid out clearly and concisely in this beautifully encouraging book. And then, there’s the photo of the pizza oven in her Looking Good section. That’s going on my To-do list. By that I mean Mr. Fairweather’s To-do list. Because you know, food is very important to me.