Fixing the Garden

This has been a disastrous year for me in the garden; the worst I have had since I took up gardening.

A mixture of illness and bad weather meant that I essentially abandoned the garden for most of the year, and by the time I felt like doing something, it was completely out of control. The gravel that my veg troughs stand on was ankle deep in weeds, which also crossed the patio, the troughs themselves were full of weeds. I got depressed just looking at it, which meant I didn’t really have a plan to fix it.

So I advertised for gardeners, via RatedPeople. I had successfully used this site for other trades, so had high hopes. Three people applied, and two of the were strong contenders. I ended up going with the guy who appeared to have more garden experience, judging from their profile, the other chap was more an all-round handyman.

Anyway, he turned up for the job, with his mate, on a nice sunny day, and it all started brilliantly. The gravel was weeded, the plants overgrowing the fence from the neighbours were cut right back, and some unwanted plants were removed. My pear tree was pruned right back, at my request – it had lost its shape, and if I spend next year just getting it right, without any fruit, I’ll be happy.

So far so good.

Pleased that they were doing the job, I then took my eyes off things. I was working, after all, and only recently home from a stay in hospital. I had things on my mind.

So when they came to me with a “this is going to take longer than expected, can we renegotiate”, I was not well pleased, but I gave a bit. They were then taking the latest van-load of rubbish to be disposed of, and “see you tomorrow”. As the van went off, I looked at the clock – only 2pm? “See you tomorrow” at 2pm?

It went downhill from then. An email confirming that it was now going to be “two days work”, and giving not the small increase agreed, but a doubling of the whole bill. I gave short shrift on this, and they swiftly retreated. They came back the next day and set to emptying and refilling the veg troughs with new earth, and fixing up my garden furniture.

The previous day had been bright and sunny. This day was overcast, and they had barely finished the second “coat” on the furniture when it began to rain, heavily. They again beat a retreat to their van, and were off, telling me to call them if the furniture needed more work.

Well, of course it does. It is streaked and discoloured, and looks awful. What is more, I discovered what they were using was not any proper treatment for garden furniture, but fence paint.

As the rain continued to descend, I could see it pooling in the new earth in the veg troughs. It looked good at first, but not today. I am pretty convinced it is not gardeners soil at all, but just something they have removed from another job – high in clay, and not particularly good for veg.

Then, finally, laughably, there is the trellis. I have trellis either side of my pear tree, and it was partially broken. I’d asked that they remove the trellis from the existing wall battens (which are still in good shape) and replace it.

They replaced this:

with this:

All in all, it turned out to be a bit of a disaster. I have paid the gardeners off, and they won’t be coming back.

But looking on the bright side:

○ The furniture, while hideous, is currently protected from the elements, which it wasn’t before. I intend to strip each item back and re-treat it, one piece at a time, during the winter. I think doing one chair at first will be a good start. I had been cautious about doing the job myself “in case I mess it up”. Now, with the furniture looking how it does, I have nothing to lose.

○ The veg troughs – I really don’t know. I think there must be stuff I can add to lighten the soil and make it suitable for planting. Sharp sand, compost, I have a lot of wool fleece, from vegetable box deliveries. I think I will experiment and see what works. In the worst case, I will pay someone else to empty them, and then refill them myself.

○ But the biggest thing is that the weeding and cutting back of unwanted growth is done. That looks so much better, I feel my mood regarding the garden is completely lifted. I feel I can spend time out there, getting things just how I want them.

In another household change, I’ve recently moved my office from the boxroom upstairs to my conservatory. I think looking out at the garden every day makes it more likely I will go out and potter at odd moments in the day, and less likely that I will abandon it again.

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