Yesterday, I decided to take back control of my garden. The previous two lots of house owners had neglected it badly. What was once a beautiful, well-kept place had become an eyesore, an unpleasant environment. The invasive species, their progress left unchecked for nigh on a decade, had flourished. Brambles had invaded in great numbers and settled among the original inhabitants of the garden. Their roots were now deep and swift action was needed to keep their seedlings out, never mind tackling the thorny behemoths that stood intimidatingly in the hedging. Ivy had choked the life out of native trees, some of which had given up the fight and were only being help upright by the suffocating noose of the green hordes. Something drastic needed to be done. So I took control. I took back my garden.
To begin with I spent some time on the internet. My initial research led to pages of gardening advice. These experts explained how to deal with these unwelcome invaders. It would take time and hard work. If I didn’t individually root them out they would multiply and continue to spread. I soon got bored of reading the advice of these ‘experts’. It sounded like a really long, arduous process. I wanted immediate action. I was in no mood for patience. Time and inertia was to blame for the current mess. If only the previous occupants had taken decisive control earlier…
I changed track. I googled ‘industrial strength weedkiller’. I soon found what I was looking for. Glyphosate. This stuff would nuke the most resilient of uninvited guests. Of course, there were lots of other websites telling me not to use this chemical. Lots of boring research and facts about its toxicity and links to all kinds of horrible sounding side effects like brain cancer, leaky gut syndrome and birth defects. It read like scaremongering to me. Anyway, I’m not daft enough to be spraying it about while the kids and pets are outside. I’d obviously lock the door for a bit.
I got tooled up. Stuck on the blue marigolds. Cracked open the sachets (naturally I ignored the recommended levels and went for double dose to really blitz those buggers), strapped on the backpack and turned up the spray to full whack.
Then for the really satisfying part: taking out my anger on the weeds. Years of frustration unleashed in a single afternoon of herbal Armageddon. By the time I’d finished, there was no way they, or any of their kind, were coming back.
Sitting back in my deckchair yesterday evening with an ice cold beer in my hand I reflected on a job thoroughly well done. Why hadn’t the bone idle previous incumbents of the house – a great, once proud dwelling – not taken this kind of swift, clearly necessary action earlier? Easing the pleasant throb of my aching forearm and wrist, I reached for another beer. It felt like time to celebrate.
I awoke this morning to an unpleasant scene. One of my children was standing, face glued to the patio window, quietly but persistently sobbing. A cat belonging to my next door neighbour – a lovely old Polish woman whose husband had died during the war – was lying dead in the middle of my lawn. The lawn itself wasn’t looking too clever either: the once green areas surrounding those pesky dandelions that I’d fired into oblivion were now a vivid brown colour. In fact, on closer inspection, large swathes of the grassed area had taken on a moribund creosote hue. My wife, who’d spent the morning (while I was in bed, sleeping off the beginning of a metaphysical hangover) reading the back of the weedkiller label and those tedious fact-checker websites, was no longer speaking to me. The spray gets into the earth, she told me. It can take generations to break down. Whole villages in Argentina have been blighted, she went on, by the long-term consequences of using glyphosate. Nothing grows. The children are born with deformities. Large areas of the land have turned into mini-Chernobyls. What was I thinking of, she asked through furious tears?
My hangover grows, choking my brain cells and nerve endings with its tendrils of guilt. The neighbour came round for the cat’s body while I hid upstairs in the office. The kids aren’t allowed out in the garden. Worse still, I found out that there’s only a 50% chance that the weedkiller will actually work; some of the maker’s claims of efficacy are apparently exaggerated.
This isn’t a true story. This is an allegory. An unsubtle fable borne of anger and bewilderment. I did go out in the garden yesterday. I did start to deal with the brambles and ivy. I have the cuts on my arms and legs to prove it. I dug out the roots, ripped up the stems. One by one. It will take me ages. It’s not a pleasant job. But it’s the only way to do it and not permanently destroy my garden.
Thanks for reading,