Top tips for keeping that much loved Christmas plant alive. We've tested a plant sensor and mixed it up with some good old gardening knowledge...
With GYO (grow-your-own) becoming a trendy new acronym, those of us in Generation X increasingly find ourselves arguing with our parents about whether it’s really worth it.
Take my friend Mila; she is married with two young children, one in nursery and a baby. She’s got a house full of outgrown baby clothes that need sorting; a mother who has an opinion on the right way to do everything; and a garden that she rarely touches. Luckily, most of the time it is skilfully cared for by her husband Richard, who is on a mission to create the perfect lawn.
Richard won’t let anything get in the way of his dream. The children’s trampoline is moved on a daily basis to stop it from destroying the grass. The dandelions are ruthlessly plucked out with a high-tech weeding tool. Aeration has previously taken place with such zeal that the lawn turned black for a few weeks. But since its recovery from that episode, the results have been fabulous: the lawn is covered with the lush green grass, thick and soft to walk on.
But every time Mila’s mum Jane comes to visit, she starts the same old argument about the benefits of home-grown food.
Mila’s not alone. The older generation is bursting with reasons why their offspring should get their hands dirty growing vegetables – the fresh air; the pesticide-free food – and it’s so exciting to see how a seed transforms into a growing plant (is this the modern equivalent of a watched pot?). But the reality is that our parents have more time to spend on gardening; their children have grown up and left home. While they’re building their compost heaps, their sons and daughters are buried under a heap of career- and childcare-related tasks and no matter how much a home-grown life appeals, lectures on gardening have the potential to tip them over the edge.
So can granny’s dream of home-grown pumpkin soup ever become a reality? Can a green fingered household get the green light?
It did in Mila’s family. Last spring, Jane paid an extended visit and convinced Richard to build a small raised bed and fertilise it with well-rotten grass-cuttings from his precious lawn. Jane planted a few cucumber plants; Richard watered them. When Jane visited, she would pinch the growth tips, do the weeding, add fertiliser to the soil. Then she tested Mila’s reaction to expansion by planting a few tomatoes. Mila stoically resisted further attempts at expansion but still looked pretty smug serving her own cucumbers as a snack. Especially when the children ate them all.
If you’re in the same situation as Mila, here’s her recipe for success:
- Pretend you are really enthusiastic about growing vegetables, then stand aside to let your parents or in-laws do all the ground work and tedious tasks that seem like overkill for a beginner gardener.
- Get your partner to build a raised bed, playing on his manly desire to do DIY or simply guilt-tripping him about maintaining a healthy relationship with his in-laws.
- Introduce de-weeding contests as regular activities for your children - or as entertainment at birthday parties? (If the other parents complain, remind them that gardening is a great way to develop motor skills. Surely they don’t want to hinder their own child’s development?)
- Consider installing an automatic watering system to save time and to make sure that your plants are watered even when you are away.
- Take all the credit for any successful produce.
Of course, once mum has won the first battle there will be more to come. If you want to know how to cap the expansion of your vegetable plot or to come up with more creative gardening strategies, stay tuned on 99Roots...