The Year Ahead…
If anyone needs a crystal ball, it’s a gardener. It would be so much easier to plan for the gardening year ahead if we only knew what the weather will do, which particular pests, diseases or disorders will run riot next season, and which new fashion-trends will emerge. As it is, we can only make a reasonably well educated guess. But there are plenty of clues, if you know where to look for them.
The sudden rise of baking as a latest lifestyle trend shows that people are centring their out-of-work activities creatively in the home, and what’s more are prepared to spend time learning new techniques AND investing cash in some specialist equipment – particularly when it’s going to improve their quality of life, bring the family together, and help with entertaining their friends.
Now if that doesn’t bring gardening to mind, I don’t know what does. I can easily see DIY plant propagation becoming the next big thing. We’ve already seen sales of veg seeds rising, and now its common for people who don’t usually think of themselves as green-fingered buying young plants and ‘plugs’ to bring on at home instead of splashing out on larger specimens in full flower for their patio containers.
Well, take the next step and grow those from seed this year instead. It just needs a bit of time. In return you’ll save cash AND develop a huge sense of pride at a job well done. So if you want to get in on the act, get your seed order made out soon, and invest in a cold frame to act as your own nursery. You’ll find it invaluable.
It’s not just home-baking that’s taken off. The whole make-it-yourself craft movement is gaining ground. Everywhere people are doing far more than just making do and mending, they are actively creating beautiful handmade things for everyday use or to decorate their homes. But why stop there? Take the idea outdoors.
Make your own raised veggie beds from second-hand planks; build a barbecue pit or a trendy outdoor bread-oven; dig a pond and line it with butyl rubber; lay a path using paving slabs or gravel, or make a rustic arch or fruit tunnel using long willow stems bent over to create the shape and tied where they cross over, for strength. They are all things you can easily do for yourself, given just a bit of time and oomph, and winter is the perfect time for doing jobs like that. You’ll gain immense satisfaction – not to mention brownie points.
When it comes to what to grow, fruit, veg and herbs come top of the list when you want to be on-trend and in-pocket. If your main aim is thrift, choose crops that cost most to buy in the shops and provide bags of family-filling bulk; if you prefer to go down the gourmet route go for varieties that provide peak quality, flavour and rarity even if they don’t have such heavy yields.
But you might also add the sort of plants that generate craft materials you can use creatively in all sorts of other ways; flowers for pressing or drying, fruit for home-brewing and preserve-making, herbs for home-made toiletries cosmetics and ‘cures’, willow and bamboo for stems to make anything from rustic fencing to rustic garden ornaments and decorations. They’ll all come in handy.
If there’s one thing I can predict for 2012, gardens have a huge role to play as buffers against inflation and for filling stay-at-home weekends and holidays fruitfully. It’s definitely a year to dig-in.