Lucky not to have a gardener

We are so lucky not to have a gardener; this is about the joy of doing it all yourself.

For something different on gardening read Prue Leith’s take on an English garden[1] in The Telegraph. She emigrated from SA some fifty years ago and is now eighty. Obviously well-heeled, and with rands that actually would have been worth some pounds, they bought a home in the Cotswolds.

It’s an entertaining read on the unpredictability of it all, and how gardening can be all hard-work and disappointment.

Poppies from the gardener.

She took however her SA roots with her to their new home. Says she, “I’ve always been lucky enough to have a gardener.”

That got me thinking. I’ve decided that I am lucky enough not to have a gardener. Well, that’s not entirely true. Unlike Prue whose husband, a writer, "seldom ever left the study," the good-wife here is every bit as committed as I am; perhaps even more so.

Whilst it’s true that gardening does have an unpredictable side, I am glad to be able to boast about being the only man in the whole world who gets fresh-roses, or at the moment huge bunches of delightful poppies in my office, every working day of my life from she who must be obeyed.

Her flowers are very predictable.

And I’m happy to say the mulberries have once again brought us delicious, fresh fruit and the entertaining Louries and a host of other birds to party. Lemons and limes abound but I must admit though that I have been battling to pick the twenty avocados[2] a week that we are accustomed to. It will not be a nine-month season this year; we think that tornado that brushed the village last year knocked a lot of the flowers off.

One crop that was completely unpredicted is the nectar-flow this Spring; thanks perhaps to the astonishing hail storm in June, or was it July, this has been a truly amazing season.

It’s such a shame there is no Witness flower-show or open gardens this year. Having 170 bottles already safely harvested, and the promise of more to come, has been a total surprise, surpassing any previous crop that I remember in October.

Armchair roses.

On the subject of bees, this is a season to treat them with great respect. A "boiling hive" means when you lift the lid, with alternative shopping in your heart, they come pouring out to defend the fruit of their labours. Twice I have literally been chased from the apiary so stroppy were they; that doesn’t happen very often. The hives are positively dangerous at the moment.

Since childhood we have talked of robbing the bees but it's no longer politically-correct. I too like good strong words that mean something but in fact it is not a good fit; it does not reflect the give and take which characterises how the keeper feels about his pets. So we harvest the honey. Would a rose smell any different if you gave it another name?

Real bread, cheese and natural honey.

No it wouldn't but saying that we rob the bees lends weight to the vegans belief that we should not eat honey and that the keeper is a vagabond who exploits nature in a vile way.

So we harvest the honey and give as much and more back to our much-favoured pets; a warm, dry home with clean wax for the queen to lay her eggs in, and food in a dearth.

Back to not having a gardener. For us the sheer joy is not only freshly picked lettuces, young broad beans and a massive crop of potatoes when the price has risen 140% in the last four months; it’s all about the whole process from building compost-heaps, witnessing the miracle of a seedling poking its head through the ground, to mulching, weeding and watering the young plants.

And finally harvesting an astonishing amount of fresh, nutritious food much of which is shared with family and friends.

Interestingly new potatoes just lifted from the ground have about half the digestible starch of those from cold-storage. Even diabetics can often enjoy them provided it's a small portion, with no need to increase their insulin.

It means forest bathing to restore the spirit, and wholesome exercise, and the joy of not requiring that mother of all torture, the indoor-bicycle, or a gym contract.

Yesterday I, not the serf, I planted over a hundred peppadew seedlings that the good-wife had reared. Unless there is a catastrophe, and it turns out to be all hard work and disappointment, we are in for a bumper crop this year.

And today was a record day; 12 eggs from 14 free-range layers, and three darling new chicks from one of broody hens. That was a first for us.

Grow your own potatoes.

Lucky not to have a gardener

Chicks being taught to scratch.

Lucky not to have a gardener weighs up the sheer pleasure of having masses of fresh, unspoiled food with all the hard work.

Bucketful of peppadews.

Growing peppadews has been one of the most rewarding vegetables in our garden but they do need to be staked; the plants are so heavy in fruit that they will collapse otherwise and then they don't ripen. After citrus they are the richest source of vitamin C and a powerful anti-inflammatory compound called capsaicin; we give them the credit for little pain in our muscles and joints.


Our newsletter is entitled "create a cyan zone" at your home, preserving both yourself, your family and friends, and Mother Earth for future generations. We promise not to spam you with daily emails promoting various products. You may get an occasional nudge to buy one of my books!

Here are the back issues.

  • Mill your own flour
  • Bake your own sourdough bread
  • Microplastics from our water
  • Alternative types of water storage
  • Wear your clothes out
  • Comfort foods
  • Create a bee-friendly environment
  • Go to bed slightly hungry
  • Keep bees
  • Blue zone folk are religious
  • Reduce plastic waste
  • Family is important
  • What can go in compost?
  • Grow broad beans for longevity
  • Harvest and store sunshine
  • Blue zone exercise
  • Harvest and store your rainwater
  • Create a cyan zone at your home

Yes, it’s hard work; and it does take quite a lot of time, but no, we certainly wouldn’t welcome a request from Open Gardens. With no serf ours is an untidy mess. It does mean not spending hours stuck in front of the TV, in the study at the computer writing books or plying the social media. It is probably the most rewarding and satisfying thing I do.

When the world wearies, and society ceases to satisfy, there’s always the garden.

I suspect Prue Leith’s serf did all the hard work and got all the pleasure, fed his family from the excess and was paid for his labours. She was probably left with some of the left-overs and all the disappointment! 

We are indeed lucky not to have a gardener.

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56 Groenekloof Rd,

Hilton, KZN

South Africa