Punks With Gardens
I’ve been a keen gardener pretty much for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I spent happy summer days on the allotment with an old retired couple who were neighbours in our block of flats, as well as loads of time in my gran and grandad’s tiny cottage garden (even though it was in a massive council estate). And when I say cottage garden, I don’t mean the picture-postcard sort on chocolate boxes. I mean the proper practical sort that look fantastic and provide food and flowers throughout the year.
Once we’d moved into a house, my mum had a garden of her own to play with. She encouraged me and my brothers to grow our own stuff too – carrots, lettuce and spring onions were popular with us, as were sunflowers, snapdragons and hollyhocks.
So when I finally left home, I had a reasonable working knowledge of growing stuff. Since then, I’ve grown things pretty much everywhere I’ve lived although, until more recently, I’ve never had the chance to really get intimate with land – it’s usually just been a few pots of herbs on the windowsill and a few tubs in the garden to play with. Temporary accommodation doesn’t lend itself well to the longer time span you need to really develop a garden.
But over the last 8 years, I’ve lived in the same place. And that means I’ve been able to get totally stuck in to being a gardener. So I’ve decided to write the occasional bit about my garden, partly to pass on some of what I’ve learned, partly to try and encourage a few of you to give it a go if you don’t already, and partly just to show off the end results of mine and Mother Nature’s efforts to a wider world. Also, punks with gardens are as important to the revolution as punks with guns.
I’ll post up some specifics about what I’ve done in my space later but, to start the ball rolling, I want to tell you about the most important thing you should do before anything else – start a compost heap. It’s the closest thing to alchemy that you’re ever likely to experience. Put a load of waste in the top and, a few months later, black gold comes out of the bottom.
Compost is the bedrock of any successful garden, whatever you grow. It has almost magical properties that feed, nurture and protect the plant as it develops. With good compost, things will almost grow themselves (leaving you with more time to sit back with a cuppa and simply enjoy the life happening all around you).
There are people who’ve already done the hard work of explaining how to go about the whole process, which means I don’t have to. UK folk can also find discounted ready-made compost bins through this site.
One thing that this site doesn’t tell you is how to make good use of the ‘bad’ perennial ‘weeds’ that you might find (in the UK, that includes things like bindweed, dandelion, couch grass etc.) There are a couple of solutions (literally, in one case) that I’ve successfully used.
Method one simply involves putting all of these types of plant in a heavy duty black plastic sack, loosely tying the top and leaving it in a warm spot in the garden for a few months. This will kill the weeds and they can then be safely added to your main heap.
The second option is smellier but quicker – make weed tea (no, not that kind of weed, that would be foolish and expensive). Give it a few weeks and you’ll have a foul-stinking brew that is surprisingly good for your garden. You use the liquid as a fertiliser, and the leftover dead weeds can then be put on the heap.
Feel free to share composting hints n’ tips in the comments, or ask me any questions if you’re unsure of something or having problems.