Thursday, March 24, 2005

Danger at the Bottom of the Garden.

I dont like gardening, im not very good at it. Maybe i dont like it because im not very good at it. Gardening is a very British thing, but also very slow, and pretty unrewarding. It seems to be lot of work just to get it back to the postion it was in before Mother Nature stuck her nose in. Pruning, preening, potting, etc.

Maybe i dont like gardening because it seems like nothing much happens. Im not a plan ahead type of person, i want my things now and that includes the plants that ive just put in the garden and the seeds ive just sown. If im considering spending a few hours in the garden then the least the plants could do would be to not wait till next Spring till they show me the fruits of my labour. Ive lost interest by time the blooming comes around.

Or maybe i dont like it because everything changes from the way i left it? If im doing the garden then i want it to stay like that. Exactly like that. I dont want to be messing around with it every week. I can get quite motivated every now and again, but a garden is a whole summertime commitment - my motivation wanes around May.

Im good at mowing the lawn, thats my job. I can do that. And strimming. I have to call my Mum for anything else, she picks the plants for me, she picks the pots, she tells me where i should put them, she comes to give them mouth to mouth resuscitation every few weeks. A typical phone conversation with my mother goes along the lines of:

Watski: "Hello"
Watski Mum: "Hello Duck"
Watski: "How are you?"
Watski Mum: "Have you been watering those plants?"
Watksi: *Damn - the plants*. "Errr, yes?"
Watski Mum: "You havent have you? They'll all be dead!"

Actually, before all this happens, right back when the garden emerges from its winter hibernation, she says to me 'why dont you have the garden paved over? it'll make it much easier for you to manage'. A good idea in theory and probably in practice but Im not a great fan of this idea as much as i dont like gardening, a garden is meant to be green and have things growing in it.

Not growing through it as any paving on my land would have. And nothing says 'crap gardener lives here, i kill all plants within days' more than paving or gravelling where garden should be. I dont want the rest of the street having their suspicions that im a crap gardener confirmed. Although having black grass probably did that trick for me anyway.

How do people become good at gardening? Was Gardening a GCSE option that i didnt pick? Or maybe it was a sub-category within Geography. I dont have a perfect lawn, Ive got a kind of patchwork lawn. Its a bit yellow and dead in places, and a bit green elsewhere. There's also the sign of a few weeds coming through, and its a bit uneven and a bit bare in places. It looks nicer than youre imagining it though.

But i dont know the first place to start to begin getting a nicer lawn. I did a bit of the old weed and feed, but ive now got dark patches on my lawn, and there are a lot more dead patches now than there were before. Ive chucked a box of grass seed on it which the birds enjoyed thoroughly, but it doesnt seem to be catching very well. I need a garden SOS, or perhaps just an old man. Why do old men know everything about gardening. Do they get given a 'great gardener' tablet on their 65th birthday?

Theres a bigger problem facing me in my garden though. Frogs. And Toads. They are a right pain. Not because they do anything they shouldnt do, just because theyre there. I dont like Frogs or Toads, and its not a mild irritation. I really dont like them. Ive graduated from where i was a few years ago where i would run in the house and lock the door if i saw a Frog in the garden, to just not going in the bit of garden that a Frog was spotted. It can be a bit unsettling though because they tend to pop up when you least expect them. I dont know where they come from, i havent got anything moist for them in my garden. No pond or anything. And none of my neighbours have, or their neighbours. So the Frogs are just targetting me. They know i dont like them and theyre enjoying it.

Every time i mow my lawn you can guarantee that a Frog (we'll refer to Frogs and Toads as Frogs from now on) will jump out and hop around for a bit in mock terror with its mates falling about laughing in the background. I dont know why it bothers hopping off, because if i felt inclined to chase after it i could easily catch it. Thats if i were a Frog predator. But im not a Frog predator, Im the opposite of a Frog predator - I tend to be going the other direction to a Frog when i see one, but ten times as fast. It might as well stay where it is, its going to be just as far away from me as if it had hopped off in its own chosen direction.

Theyre just dozy creatures though. It can see im mowing the lawn so why does it head off to the outer edges of the lawn where im going to be using the strimmer soon?. 'We're going to come into contact mate if you stay there, and both of us dont want that trauma again do we? Especially as im holding a rapidly rotating bit of wire inches from your froggy face. It could be messy for both of us if you do some hopping now.' Why dont they just hop off onto the patio, wait a few minutes till ive done, then hop back onto the garden to finish off whatever it was doing. They could arrange for the entire Frog population of my garden to wait patiently on the edge of the patio while i do the lawn if they wanted. We'd all be much happier. Better still, go and live somewhere else.

Youd have thought that the sound of a lawn mower starting up would make all the creatures in the garden think 'hello, that sounds like the lawn mower, id better make myself scarce if he's going to be doing the garden'. You can imagine the conversation between 2 spiders:

Spider 1: "Mmmm, nice flies"
Spider 2: "Did you hear something then?"
Spider 1: "No, its just you"
Spider 2: "Ssssh, there it is again"
Spider 1: "What is it?"
Spider 2: "Could have sworn i heard the mower then"
Spider 1: "It is the mower. Quick, RUNNNNNNNNN"

But no, they wait till the mower is almost on top of them before making their mad dash for freedom. Frogs, spiders, beetles, the whole garden mafia. All of them sat in the garden thinking 'oh, he's doing the lawn. He wont come over here though'. Of course im going to be coming over there and doing that bit, im not doing a garden mohican for your sake. Run off now before i get over there.

Take last night for example, nice night to mow the lawn. It needs doing so i get the mower from the shed. I dont even complete one row of the garden before a frog jumps out. Id been in the garden less than 20 seconds before coming face to face with the wee beastie. This cheeky little bugger though decides he's not going to hop the other way from which im moving, no, not this Froggie. Chuck Norris here decides he's going to hop towards the mower in some sort of suicide frog routine thats obviously been weeks in the planning. After bouncing off the mower and inadvertently showing me his belly he quickly re-assesses his strategy and decides he likes the thrill of being pursued better. Unbeknown to Chuck, im not pursuing him, its just that his route of escape happens to be exactly the same route as im taking the mower.

If he'd just done a couple of hops sideways then he'd have saved himself about 30 hops up and down the garden at the front of the mower being terrified witless. Maybe he enjoyed it, or it was the frog version of Chicken. Maybe he needed the exercise, and all the garden frogs were sat watching fattie being chased by the human.

Maybe some Frog is sat in his garden den now with the rest of the teenage Frogs supping beer and being sworn in after passing the Frog gang lawn mower inititation task:

Frog gang leader: "Here it comes, jump in front.......NOW!"
Prospective Frog gang member: "I cant, i cant...."
Frog gang leader: "What do you mean you cant? We're here now. Dont worry, we've all done it. Some of us now even do it for fun"
Prospective Frog gang member: "What about the human?"
Frog gang leader: "Dont worry about him, he'll run a mile"
Prospective Frog gang member: "Will he?"
Frog gang leader: "Yes. Now, do you want to join the gang?"
Prospective Frog gang member: "Yes"
Frog gang leader: "Well, jump in front of the lawn mower then"
Prospective Frog gang member: "Gulp......wahaaaay"

So anyway, the Frog eventually realises im not chasing him and hops off to hide in the edge of the lawn affectionately known as Strimmerland. And i go off and finish the garden off in relative peace, casting a glance in his direction every now and again to make sure that Chuck isnt planning to surprise me again.

He doesnt need to surprise me, he's hired one of his Toady mates to lurk in the rocks at the other end of the garden and hop out as i get near. Id been double teamed. Luckily this Frog isnt on the Mower flight path, but Frogs have a habit of panicking and thrusting themselves into the path of an oncoming mower in a moment of amphibian madness. Luckily this one held it together a little better and we watched each other until neither of us were threats to the other anymore.

Finishing the garden i was relieved to note that there were no more Frogs, although sometimes seeing a frog is better than the thought that one might pop out at any moment, im particularly conscious of that thought. They were probably there, but out of my eyeline, watching me. I was also relieved that i didnt have to go back and do anymore of it that id missed, i find myself missing lots of grass as im too busy watching out for Frogs. And the patterns tend to go in nice zig-zags.

I then did the postage stamp sized plot with the nice line in black grass at the front of the house before packing everything away and watering the plants. Yes Mum i did. Then i started to put the bin out. I moved the bin and something moved beneath it. Yes, the final part of the Frog chorus was waiting for me just when i thought i was safe. He didnt do anything other than shuffle from underneath the bin to underneath the shed. He didnt move quickly at all, he was making sure i knew he was there, and that there was nothing i could do about it and i think he quite enjoyed the power.

Maybe theyre just having fun with me, they know i dont like them and that i dont like them in my garden so theyre just making sure i know theyre all about. The garden must be seen as some sort of Frog save haven, frogs contact other frogs to let them know of this great place to live where the owner doesnt bother them. Ive probably made a rod for my own back now. They'll be taking over soon. Now theyre probably planning what they will do for their next trick when lawn mowing time comes round again.