The Big Garden Gamble

Gardeners are all gamblers. We bet on the weather being better than last year, that a sudden frost won’t wipe out our seedlings or the fruit blossom. That the pests won’t overcome our plants. That the final tally of the harvest will be worth the effort we’ve put in over a long season.

There are various ways in which we try to stack the odds in our favour. When we’re sowing seeds, we sow more than we need to, trying to ensure that enough seedlings germinate and survive their delicate infancy and into maturity. Of course, then we have the heartbreaking task of thinning them out, deciding which survive and which are eaten as microgreens or thrown onto the compost.

We sow early in the year, so that tender crops have a long enough season. But not too early, or the seedlings will grow too leggy before they can go outside. And we try and guess when the last frost will be, so that our plants can go outside as soon as possible, but that means some of them risk being cut back or killed by the cold.

We carefully harden off our plants, keeping frost protection handy. We watch the weather forecast. We stake and support in windy weather, but there’s nothing much we can do against a sudden hailstorm, or a poor summer.

Our greenhouses and cold frames give us the opportunity to warm things up for crops that don't grow well in our meagre summers, such as aubergines and okra.

We deploy our weapons against the pests. Slug traps and pellets. Copper bands, glue bands and pheromone traps. We hand pick, fleece and net. Sometimes we resort to spraying.

To give our plants the best possible chance of success, we look after our soil. We meticulously compost, manure, and dig (or don’t dig!). When weeds appear we deal with them as well. We dead-head our flowers to keep them blooming, hoping that this year the garden outside will live up the one in our dreams.

What’s your biggest garden gamble? An expensive plant that’s not quite hardy? Sowing too soon, or too late? Trying your hand at hostas, when you know you’re inundated with slugs?

Whatever it is, I wish you every success in your garden this year!