It is the beginning of January and our garden is looking a bit sorry for itself. In the flower beds, weeds are poking through last year’s dying vegetation. The lawn is scrubby and half covered with a giant trampoline. Our soon to be veg patch is a favourite toilet spot for next-doors’ cats. In our half-filled sandpit, toys abandoned at the end of summer lie forlornly in pools of rainwater.
On Gardener’s Question Time this week, the panel urged listeners to get out into the winter garden. I would love nothing more, but the thought of doing so accompanied by three impatient children does not appeal. The eight-year-old lives in fear of treading on a rotten pear, while the two-year-old loves digging in all the wrong places.
But after a December spent far too much indoors, trying to prise the children away from screens, I want our family to spend as much of the year ahead in the garden as possible. Perhaps this means that I have to relax about our toddler digging up the bulbs I carefully planted last autumn and little feet treading soil throughout the house.
I also have to accept that with a young family, our back garden is not going to look like the gardens in magazines and coffee table books. Save that for when they have flown the nest and we have time on our hands.
A real family garden should have a different kind of charm. It should be a place for experimentation, learning, play and relaxation. Over the course of the next year I am going to get my children involved with growing things and helping to make our garden a place they are happy to hang out in. We will grow our own fruit and vegetables to pick and eat, sow pretty flower seeds for fun, create havens for wildlife where we can then observe them and best of all build a den at the bottom of the garden!