I’m not too green to be mean
Bondage and discipline. The heretic’s fork. The sound of a vacuum cleaner choking on a plastic bread bag tie. Facebook news feed conspiracies. Many and barbaric are the man-made instruments of human torture, though none compares to the inhumanity of the natural world. Ask any keen gardener: in spring, Mother Nature is a stroppy soand-so.
Forget all that guff about regeneration and renewal. The earth goddess blows as hot and cold as a Tinder hookup, and is as trustworthy as a botoxed rictus on The Real Housewives of Auckland. (Only Gilda appears to have functioning facial muscles. Then again, she’s the fox in the hen house: sagacious, savage, quickwitted, dignified, pulchritudinous. Someone, please, sign her up for a series of The Bachelorette.)
Mother Nature is the real housewife, not just of Auckland, but of the whole damn planet. She’s in charge, and she knows it, which is why one day she’ll reward you with the season’s first sun-ripened strawberry or fragrant heritage rose oozing myrrh and musk, only to set a plague of aphids on to your artichokes or riddle your peaches with rot the next.
Everything you’ve read (some of it written by me) about gardening being good for your soul is hippydippy poppycock. Sure, research has shown gardening can keep you slim and trim, reduce the risk of strokes and heart disease, improve balance and coordination, stave off osteoporosis and dementia, soothe stress, enhance immunity to allergens, and save you money on gym subscriptions and grocery bills.
But where’s the medical evidence that gardening gets you in a good mood? Actually, there’s a vast tract of it. Ten recent studies evaluated by the Mental Health Review Journal all found significant benefits from so-called ‘‘green therapy’’, including reduced anxiety and depression and fewer mental health interventions.
However, one non-peerreviewed, non-randomised, highly unscientific study conducted in the foothills of the Hunua Ranges this week came to a completely different conclusion: gardening makes you mad as hell.
This week – the second of spring, no less – has seen more consecutive frosts than we had all winter. Thanks, Jack, for blackening my baby heliotropes, freezing my frost-tender $20 ‘Silver Lady’ ferns, slaughtering my bean seedlings, shrivelling my perennial statice, and withering the tips off the vireya rhododendrons I’d only just bought. Real nice of you, buddy.
This week, I also lost a dozen punnets of Tuscan kale seedlings to blackbirds and my ‘Savoy’ cabbages vanished without trace the very day after I lifted the protective netting off them.
Pheasants, pukekos, rabbits, rats, hares, and possums: the culprits could be any or all of them. Since autumn, I’ve been trying to repel these esurient varmints from my vegetable garden. The local rural supplies store recommended Pindone, an agricultural anti-coagulant akin to the blood-thinning drug Warfarin, but those midnight marauders won’t take the bait.
I’ve smeared sticky Stockholm Tar, a concentrated pine extract usually applied to horse’s hooves but apparently also malodorous to marsupials, on the fence posts to no avail. I’ve tried spraying newly transplanted seedlings with Thiram, a fungicide sold for black spot, brown rot, red thread, botrytis, and rust that just also happens to repel larcenous leporidae. It seems to work, but requires reapplication after rain. Ditto the fetid foliar fish fertiliser; possums aren’t pescetarians.
I don’t mind sharing the spoils of my soil but when all the freesias at our front gate, plus three beds of strawberries – a trial for NZ Gardener magazine – were eaten down to their stumps in a dawn raid, I declared war and hired a hitman.
A few weeks back, while having a good old whinge on the radio about the less bucolic consequences of country living, a young man called Terry sent me an email. ‘‘I live down the road and I’m happy to come and take care of your rabbits humanely,’’ he wrote. I phoned him on Monday. ‘‘Be as inhumane as you like,’’ I said. ‘‘Just get the b......s.’’
Gardening might be good for you, but it doesn’t always bring out the best in me. ❚
The Real Housewives of Auckland have nothing on Mother Nature. She’s the real bossy one, in control of the whole world.