Garden Blog - Blog Post

The Terrible, Terrible Mistake


It’s not easy for me to admit this, but I’m only realising now that I once made a terrible, terrible gardening mistake. Let me take you back a few years to when I was young(er), full of enthusiasm, didn’t have a bad back and dodgy wrist and most of all, was very naive. The garden was new, very rough but slowly taking shape. I was filling my mind with horticultural knowledge by watching TV, poring through books and browsing online. The common theme across all these was having the perfect, immaculate garden lawn.

The perfect garden lawn demands the ultimate care and attention and should be lavished with feed, seed, watered and have expensive gadgets to maintain it – this was the take-home message from all these places that wanted to sell you things and like the naive person I was, I was sucked in.

The patch of scratty grass I had in the back came woefully short of the pictures on the TV and internet. I had a grass rake and a mower, but obviously that wasn’t enough, I then got a scarifier, then I bought lawn sand, lawn seed, lawn feed and weed. There was “autumn care” and “summer care” programs and seed for shade, damp, sun and so on… I would spend ages aerating the lawn, sprinkling the compost over it, trying to recover bare patches, eliminate weeds and generally strive to achieve picture perfect results to join the ranks of the “immaculate lawn club”.

Front Garden

The result was a generally improved lawn, but it was a great deal of expense and effort to make it look that way and to top it all off, I would have to do it every year. I’d created a prima donna. That wasn’t the worst of it though, it was recently that I begun to realise that all the chemicals and fertiliser in the products that I put down to keep the grass green and the weeds dead had effectively sterilised the grass. While the borders were full of plants, flowers, insects and buzzing things, the grass was green but ultimately lifeless.

What really brought it home was when my other half expressed a liking of daisies. That took me back to Junior school and sitting under a monumental plane tree making daisy chains on the grass. I couldn’t do that in my back garden now, the chemicals had killed all the daisies. When I realised what I had done, it made me very sad. It was a terrible, terrible mistake.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Today I have the skill, experience, knowledge and money to turn the clock back and restore the “lawn” to how it should be: generally green but covered with grass flowers like buttercups, daisies and clover and brimming with life. I can readily buy the plants as seeds and re-introduce what was lost. Once the flowers are back, the other life will return and the chain will rebuild itself after the chemical devastation I inflicted on it a few years back.

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Sunil Patel

I'm Sunil Patel, this is me. I created the Garden at 13 Broom Acres and I open it to visitors. I also bake and write blog posts giving a "behind the scenes" look into what it's like to maintain such a garden.

Visit the blog, then come and visit the garden. We can have a good sit-down, a jolly chinwag and a relaxing cup of tea with a sinfully generous slice of home made cake.

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Steph 22/05/2013 - 7:32 pm

Hmmmm, I seem to recall Gareth moaning about me weeding out the nice bright yellow dandelions when we lived in Stockmore street. Are you going to welcome those back too?!

Sunil 22/05/2013 - 7:51 pm

Hello Steph, they’ve already made a come back and I have a go at those that become too large and get noticed, but otherwise there’s an uneasy and tentative alliance between us. I’m not sure I can trust them to behave though, we’ll see.

Claire 22/05/2013 - 7:37 pm

My Dad is normally relaxes by mowing the lawn so it is usually pretty trim but this month he says he is just enjoying letting it grow dandelions so it looks really wild and nice. Dandelions and daisies are the new in!

Sunil 22/05/2013 - 7:54 pm

Hi Claire, to help the grass and anything else that might settle in it, I’ve got the lawn mower on the highest/longest setting, so it always looks as though it could do with a cut. Hopefully this will lend a bit more strength and robustness to what’s left of the grass so it will thicken out and grow stronger.

gardeninacity 22/05/2013 - 8:52 pm

A certain number of weeds should be to.erated, I think. Violets and white clover are basically benign. Plantain and dandelions are a little harder to tolerate in large numbers.

Sunil Patel 23/05/2013 - 9:36 pm

Hello Jason, violets are lovely and clover would be good to have back. It’s daffodils that I will have to keep under control I think, they’re just so prolific!

Casa Mariposa 23/05/2013 - 9:24 pm

Why don’t you just rip it out completely? If you want a patch of green over the winter you could put in a ground cover that would meander around a patch of perennials or low growing shrubs. Then you sell the mower and use the money to buy more plants. 🙂

Sunil 23/05/2013 - 9:40 pm

Hi Tammy, I can’t take it all out I’m afraid, we do actually use it, mainly to reach the washing lines and to sit and lounge on when the patio slabs are too hard. I’m also under orders not to get rid of it all too, so I’ll just have to try and get the grass looking the way I want it – full of flowers.

Casa Mariposa 24/05/2013 - 2:24 am

Are you going to overseed it with wildflower seeds? That would be beautiful! I have plenty of lawn, too, that we also use regularly. It’s a nice resting spot for the eyes and is a cooling neutral tone in the garden.

Sunil 25/05/2013 - 8:59 pm

Not quite, I’m not planning to turn it into meadow, but to re-introduce plants such as daisies, clover and buttercups. I’m keeping the grass height at the highest that the mower can be set at so that they have an easier time of flowering and spreading.

Jean 30/05/2013 - 3:10 am

Those images of pristine, manicured green lawn are so seductive. It took me a while to realize that pretty much any short green plants look great when they’re mowed to a uniform height. When I had to have my septic system replaced a few years ago, the contractors had to dig up all my lovely green, easy-care moss. The capped the new septic system with 4 inches of topsoil and grass seed. Happily, the “grass” seed included quite a bit of clover, which I’m hoping will gradually take over. A lawn made up mostly of clover would be soft underfoot, fragrant, and low-maintenance.


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