Garden Thoughts … Soil and the Garden

More than a few houses throughout Ireland and Scotland
stand two-, three-, and four hundred years
after being built … out of Cob.

Cob is a thick mixture of lime; horse-hair or straw;
clay, … and sharp sand.

Now, with that in mind, precisely why it has been
that the “advice” handed out by media ‘experts’ ,
garden centres, and television gardening celebrities
over the last thirty years,
has been to rejuvenate clay soil by adding “sharp sand”

has been, for me, something that is utterly mystifying
and extremely frustrating when noting
the look of desperation upon the faces of folk
who have asked me to fix
the resulting quagmire that occurred.

Clay – mixed with Sharp Sand
is the principle ingredient … in Cob.

Quite why anyone would be instructed
to turn their garden beds
into nature’s version of cement,
is, truly, beyond my ability to fathom.

Any soil – sand, clay, or simply
old soil lacking nutrients – Will be … Will Be –
enriched and made highly suitable for plant growth,
by digging in well-rotted horse manure.

Nothing else is required.

In lieu of well-rotted horse manure,
– for folks living in cities – any available compost
forked in to existing soil
will immediately improve its characteristics,
transforming it from being detrimental to plant life,
to being a home in which plants will thrive.

If you are ever faced with the seeming dilemma
of whether to trust “Science” – or the Victorian farmer:
trust the old-fashioned farmer.

Every time.

Any plant WANTS to grow.
The gardener simply has to know how
to give it a safe, secure, and comfortable home.

Forking in organic compost will transform
ANY type of soil
into an inviting home for plants;
time, in addition, will attract worms,
which will then carry nutrients
throughout that garden soil.

Thereafter, a 3-inch covering of mulch
on the garden beds during the first week in March
(early enough so that springtime bulbs
are free to emerge without being broken)
will inhibit weeds
as well as helping the soil to retain moisture.


Shade plants for shade areas:
Nothing, I suppose, can be more depressing
than seeing a hosta struggling to survive
because home-owner or landscaper
has situated it in a location of full sun.

Plants make their own food using light
and Carbon Dioxide – more carbon, more oxygen.
Give them a comfortable home of friable soil
and regular supplies of water,
and they will look after the rest.


Whilst it is true that each plant –
given a secure place to grow,
will ordinarily look after itself –

the artificial environment of a garden
DOES require intervention from you.
If none is given, weeds will invariably take over.

Mulch ( depriving the weeds of light )
and a bit of healthy exercise ( time spent
on hands and knees ) is what is required
to defeat ruthless invaders known as weeds.

The toughest Perennial weeds ( such as Dandelion )
will grow through the mulch, and it is the up the gardener
to get down on hands and knees with a trowel,
or stand with a garden fork,
and loosen the area around the weed
using care to remove the entire Tap Root.

Remove young weeds as they are sighted.

The same, ideally first thing in the morning,
is true for slugs.

No caring, conscientious gardener will ever
use “slug bait” poison as this will inevitably end up
killing the garden animals who eat them.

Chemicals …

Equisetum has thin, easily breakable roots
that spread perniciously below ground;
whilst Convolvulus binds itself
around the plants surrounding it,
in effect, strangling them as it grows.

In an invasive situation, where forking
is not practical due to the sheer mass of weeds,
the only recourse is to apply a Systemic weed-killer
which kills the plant and stops at the soil.

GARDENING: Year-round Interest

Gardening will sharpen your mind,
pique your curiosity,
and keep your mind and body
in infinitely better condition
than multitudes who sit slowly dying
in front of some form of video screen.

When it is pouring with rain in the winter,
get into the greenhouse or the potting shed:
check the labels on seedlings and cuttings;
clean and oil secateurs and other garden equipment.

When a howling snowstorm makes it too cold
to be outside at all,
sit beside the fireplace with a hot cup of tea,
and pour over the pages of the latest catalogue
from a local garden supply shop
or Rose nursery.

Make gardening your hobby …
your exercise …
your genuine interest in life,

and you will be quicker, sharper,
and far more healthy
than multitudes whose entire existence
is constantly spent looking for ways to be
lazy and to “make life easier”.

Do wonderful work in your garden,
and your garden will, I assure you,
do wonderful work upon you.

P Livingstone

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