Things I like and don't like doing in the garden

I once got talking to a friend about houseworky things.  We were both speakers at a conference in San Diego before you get too stereotypical an idea.  She was saying how much she hated emptying the dishwasher and doing the ironing and I was quite surprised because, while I am not a great housewife, those are two of the jobs that I don't much mind.  Then I read in a blog the other day about the writer's dislike of potting on and pricking out and thought "Oh, I quite like that" so it got me musing about what I do and don't like doing in the garden.

Things I like:
  1. I love sowing seeds, preferably in the greenhouse in spring when it is cold outside but warm enough to take my jacket off inside out of the wind .  My resolution this year is to label everything, not just the first few trays I sow, but everything, all the time.  Chances of success? Low.
  2. I like cutting things back, not the large scale pruning which needs pruning saws and loppers, but the tidying up sort of cutting back.  I particularly like cutting back perennial geraniums when they have flowered and seeing the resulting crewcut grow back into a neat, bushy plant which flowers all over again.  I like deadheading too.
  3. Astonishingly, I quite like weeding.  I kneel on an old foam pad and weed with my handfork.  At some point I always take off my gardening gloves, dooming myself for yet another summer to broken nails and gardeners' hands.  I like getting up close with the garden, seeing what has self sown.  I like self sowers: alchemilla mollis, papaver somniferum, honesty, calendula, forget me not.  Self sown plants often choose better places than I would and I like to see where they are and sometimes I move them about while I am digging up the creeping buttercup and the chickweed.

Things I don't like:
  1. I love compost but I hate turning the compost heap and I am not too fond of wheeling barrows full of the stuff about.  It's heavy.  I drop it everywhere and make a mess.  The inevitable eggshells which haven't broken down roll out onto my feet and I fail to decide what to do with them.  Mulching by magic would be the ideal solution.
  2. I hate bindweed, with a passion.  Every year I dig it up and chase the roots through the soil and begin to think I might be winning.  Every year I turn my back for a few minutes in May and there it is, growing up through my paeonies and strangling the strawberries.
  3. I don't mind weeding beds but I hate weeding paths and terraces.  There is none of the interest of seeing what is coming up of its own accord and none of the satisfaction of weeding an onion bed and giving the onions room to breathe.  It is just outside housekeeping and it bores me rigid.
  4. I don't like staking things.  I know this is stupid because year after year I don't do it or leave it too late and the wind comes whistling along the side of the house and all my foxgloves are left leaning at a crazy angle like the trees on the top of the ridge.  Maybe I would like it better if I stopped failing to use metal rings and had a go with birch twigs and hazel instead.
But the thing I like most of all is wandering about, seeing what is growing, musing about what else I might grow which would make the garden I see in my head, sitting on a bench in the sun with a cup of weak tea in my hands looking out across the valley, dreaming.


  1. Yes , I like deadheading too . And always feel I should apologise to a patently nearly dead plant for composting it . In fact , I seem to have a Hospice for mortally ill plants in one corner and always hope for a miraculous recovery .

  2. How interesting! Never really thought about things in that way. Though now I come to think of it I wonder if I really actually like gardening at all. I do it, not very well, and that's all. It has to be done. I have none of the obvious passion that excites your blogs. I wish I had. Still, galvanised by your comment last week I planted today 13 (thirteen!) sweet pea seeds (that came in a foil packet from Sarah Raven) in a light diffuser that fell off a fluorescent light in the theatre and is now filled with compost. Why not use proper trays? Laziness, I suppose; the diffuser being already full of compost from last year and in my little table top greenhouse. We'll see how (if?) they grow. I also planted some sunflower seeds, but as the packet was stamped 2006 I don't have high hopes of those either. Meanwhile, I'll try to think of something I really enjoy in the garden, apart from sitting idly in the sun.

  3. I sort of try with gardening; and I have periods when I'm quite enthusiastic, but then... I like cottage gardens, and very formal gardens too - not so keen on the in between.

    Saw two Brimstone butterflies today - first real sign of spring.

  4. I'm not awfully sure if I like gardening either, but I do it, down on the allotment, albeit rather badly. I'm too forgetful; I never remember what's been put where; I lose labels; I step on things I've just transplanted; I loathe turning compost or pinching out tomatoes. But I do really like weeding - maybe I should be a real gardener's skivvy!

  5. I could happily dead head roses all day - so satisfying and tidy, am currently attempting to remove 12 years growth of lemon balm from the long border -I'm sure when that little chore is done I shall be very satisfied!!

  6. Much food for thought here - and I speak as one who has spent most of the day in the garden. Wasn't the weather fantastic. No coat!!!

    I love my garden. I love knowing things about it - deciding what to put where, making shapes and 'painting' with plants. Can't say I like the drudgery much - and I resent every moment spent getting rid of prunings and stuff which won't compost.

    We have bindweed too - where it came from is a mystery. I actually quite admire its amibtion to take over our plot, if not the world.

  7. I'm afraid I'm not feeling very happy with gardening, the thing I enjoy the most is my riding lawnmower, doing the lawns. Oh, thank-you Fennie for reminding me about sweet peas, they made me happy!

  8. S&S - I am trying to be more ruthless but yes, I do recognise the hope for miraculous recovery!
    Fennie - well you have instantly spotted that my very favourite thing is sitting in the sun so don't be misled by all the worky stuff.
    Mark - I know what you mean about the extremes. I love formality: topiary, strong lines, but also like a mixture of generosity and function and that is the only thing to aim for here. Formality would look odd.
    Rachel - do you fancy coming here for a day or two? I am up for some weeding but could do with a hand!
    sbs - lemon balm, mmmm. I have loads, do like it but it does want to take over the world doesn't it? Here, far more than mint, it can do with being contained.
    mountainear - I sort of know what you mean about bindweed, but I still hate its determination to achieve world domination.
    Linda - I love sweetpeas too! Do you fancy a bit of lawn mowing in Wales? Come over anytime.

  9. I like weeding too! Especially, when it is warm out and I can mess around with my fingers in the warm moist dirt searching down weed roots.

  10. The things I like and don't like about gardening change with the weather, my schedule, and my moods... but I ALWAYS love to sit and muse, or wander and muse, or look out the window and muse about the possibilities.

  11. See what we have here? A Garden Hit Squad.... Just needs someone to organise us, and we could move round the country, transforming each other's blasted plots, and moving blithely on to the next - possibly even with a team song... Tra la!

    Love the new fresh Spring green look of your blog, btw.

  12. everything on both of your lists are actually nice things to have to worry about! I don't like weeding, but I like how things look afterwards!

    The snow is now gone here, but there is always a late snowstorm.

    I'll wait to turn the compost heap.

  13. That was amazing Elizabeth. You have written my list! I agree with all of it apart from the large scale cutting back which I also love. In fact, my favourite is to tame an overgrown garden into a gentler form of itself. Love weeding though, x

  14. good, the new format works for comments.

    I hate celandines. One year here in this garden, somebody (probably me) weeded and weeded the damn things out and then put them in the compost, with the result that they were everywhere the following year.

    I love compost making, not the turning; gardener does that. My compost bins are huge.

    I love weeding on my knees, there's so much satisfaction in digging them up and disposing of them - I have learnt my lesson, and now divide them into annual and perennial weeds.

    I love the neat and tidy beds after weeding, I am a bit anal that way, but I also adore having clumps of geraniums etc. flop over paths.

    I love plants, I am a it of a plantaholic, but most of all I love sitting on a sunny bench, after a day's hard work, with a glass of wine in my hand, an admiring what I've done. The usual, self-congratulatory remark is "A good days work, it really shows".

    A timely idea for a post now that the new gardening year is upon us. Maybe we should have a gardeners' corner, with tips, plants and seed exchange, and maybe the odd garden visit.

  15. I have it all ahead of me ..the
    best part is watching it grow.
    I bought tooo many seeds this spring, I can see myself half
    dead after planting all these seeds.

    Happy digging


  16. I would like wandering about the garden the best and daydreaming about what was left to do. A never ending dream.

  17. Ooh, Elizabeth - an interesting one here. You sound like a woman after my own heart when it comes to ironing, dishwasher emptying, weeding and cutting back. I think it's one of those tidy, tidy Virgo things (and with ironing, there's always the added attraction of being able to listen properly to something on the radio while still feeling virtuous and useful).

    I fear you are a lot better gardener than me, though, looking at your glorious pictures. I'm still at the stage when I can't see much point in growing things you can't actually eat.

    PS I hope you're saving the chickweed for your hens (hens do eat chickweed, don't they? Our guinea pigs used to love it).

  18. Please feel free to stop by my garden to fulfill your love of weeding anytime!

  19. You have inspired me, I am almost itching to do some weeding. I hate weeding in paths and driveway too

    and grass cutting (but M does that).

    I would rather weeds didn't grow though and HATE ground elder.
    I like deadheading roses too and sitting in the garden with a cup of tea and a book is best of all.

  20. I agree with your likes and dislikes - why is a dandelion in a path different to one in the border? I hate watering though and things can't grow without water, so I've had to delegate that task! Lovely blog - it's got me thinking about all the gardening tasks I have planned for this summer. xx

  21. I think we have a lot in common! One of the most useful things I did with my seed sowing last year was to note down what date we sowed things, and also the emergence date. Looking back it has shown me that in the absence of heat there is no point in sowing too early - later sowings emerged at exactly the same time!

    Pomona x

  22. I'm not the world's most devoted gardener. I've developed this sort of philosophy that nothing too namby pamby belongs in my garden. If it wants to live here it will have to put up with the occasional drought, monsoon, hailstorm, kids etc. that come this way. I don't have a lawn, I have grass, well most of it is grass.
    Having said that I love being in the garden and most of all working the soil, that's my favourite task. Spade, fork, hoe, rake I'm happy with any of them in my hand...Tramp (Czech Republic)

  23. Callie - you see, I am not alone. We need to make up a squad.
    Marcheline - oh yes, the dreaming is definitely the best.
    Rachel - whoops, you had the same idea about the squad. Wouldn't that be fabulous, weeding the nation? Mind you, I might have to insist on weeding only within daily reach of home.
    Don - I like all this stuff in its own way I suppose, just some more than others!

  24. Yes, I like weeding too. Just riffling about in the soil disturbing little weed seedlings. My bete noir is hairy bitter cress. Kill! Kill!

  25. Pipany - taming an overgrown garden sounds good. Wrestling with yards of docks is less good but has to be done sometime this year.
    Friko - I like the idea of a gardening corner. Could we have one on Fridge Soup?
    Yvonne - I always have too many seeds. I think it must be just part of life!
    Green Stone - dreaming is definitely what I am best at although sometimes I do have to do as well.
    LBD - did you know I was a Virgo? Damn, was hoping it didn't show. A look at my study would show I am not always tidy though.

  26. Lovely post and your header is just a breath of fresh air - gorgeous! I like to dig - I know its really hard work but its so satisfying to see a piece of ground nicely turned and raked ready for the seeds to go in.


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