Whilst I was assessing what to do next, one of the people, who rang me last week in response to my advert at the job centre, called up to see if I wanted to try him out, I did. He came on Monday and turned out to be a great find. Six foot two and as broad an ox, he wanted no tea or coffee, to start the day, but to get his hands on the spade and start digging, oh joy. He laboured eagerly, still declining beverages, and began offering helpful suggestions which proved his gardening experience and knowledge. The sun was shining and so was his forehead as he powered through the work. He dug, sieved, cleared, swept and bagged the debris as he went, then loaded it into my car, so that it was an oddly satisfying drive to the dump, as I was not filthy or exhausted by the work that had necessitated the trip. Back in the garden the work continued a pace, and still no beverages. I began to see that I could expand my original ideas for the space that needed revamping; I could be more ambitious because the work was not going to cost me my health. I was just considering if I could adopt this chap, or marry him off to one of my daughters, when reality resurfaced and he had to leave early with a splitting headache. I knew he should have had those beverages, it was dehydration I recon.
Faced again with the problem of needing manual labour, this time in the garden to give it a revamp, I pondered. Gardeners cost £10- £15 per hour where I live, but I often just need the muscle power to dig, shift and lift. Then I had a novel thought.
I tried contacting the local job centre to see if there were keen people available at a more economical sum. Sure enough, it was really easy to dictate my needs to the man on the phone, be given a reference number and signed, scanned and returned a document which guaranteed I would pay the minimum wage. There was no charge for this and within an hour I started to receive calls. There were in fact so many calls for the £6.50 an hour job of heavy digging in my back garden, I had to call the job centre again to switch off the advert having agreed to one person and recording a back list of another 4 keen types.
Now, it was not a gardener I had hired, even though he professed to have done a fair amount of landscape gardening for a local council. He needed tutoring on how to dig up roots, rather than chopping them of at the surface; and I had to explain and that digging up a patch of ground containing rubble required penetrating the soil rather than scraping the turf from off the top of it. But that was what I was prepared for, and I did get a good chunk of the work done for a fraction of the price. Well, I did have to deflect the request for more funds as “the work had been really hard”.
So for £50 I got two sections of the garden cleared and felt encouraged to jet wash my large balcony as he had carried all the planters off it for me. They now sit at the bottom of the garden ready to be potted up with the spring display that I will see from my kitchen window. I will spend time this weekend assessing the next stage of work, and when the pots are ready, the top soil ordered, I will call up the numbers on my list, or re post my job centre ad and complete the next stage of the garden revamp. Hoorah! Watch this space. Wendy
The side bed covered in the ivy I had got as far as dragging off the wall. Can you imagine the amount of roots to dig up?
The winter may seem an unlikely time for gardening, but provided you can withstand the cold for a short while, there are many plants that are best started in the colder months in preparation for spring. Tulips and crocuses are great ones to start off with. If you’re more into fruit and veg than flowers, why not try growing your own rhubarb? And since the ground may be quite solid, it never hurts to have a spare planter or grow bed lying around.
If the thought of labouring outside in the cold does not appeal to you, you can still continue to enjoy gardening within the comfort of your home. Window boxes and trough planters are slim lined and fit neatly on any window ledge, allowing you to continue to propagate your bulbs and seeds indoors, rather than relying on whatever the local florist can provide. Herbs in particular are great for indoor gardening and you can often find handy and affordable herb growing kits which will also sit on your window sill and are ideal for beginners and experienced gardeners alike.
At this time of year, protecting your more fragile plants and flowers from the frost and cold is a big priority. If you are anxious about leaving them open to the weather outside, it’s best to store them inside a greenhouse. However, if indoor space is an issue, do not despair! Fleecy plant covers are just the ticket to keep your garden plants protected from frost. Cheap, effective and easy to use, they just slip over the plant and keep it safe from the harsh winter weather while still allowing moisture and light to penetrate through to the plant