x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Continue being laid back right through 2010

Outdoors Don't work too hard at keeping your New Year gardening resolutions - they are meant to be broken

It doesn't matter if you don't end up pruning the roses, because they will still bloom.
It doesn't matter if you don't end up pruning the roses, because they will still bloom.

We lazy gardeners enter the new year with lots of enthusiasm. Words like improvement, self discipline and prudence are bandied about. But all that heart searching is bad for the digestion. So, what can we do? Well, we can cheat. At least, that's what I do. Make resolutions about tasks that have to be done anyway. Just resolve to do them a bit sooner.

If you didn't manage to tidy up and weed the garden or potted plants in the autumn, you can resolve to do so asap. The reward is that this will save a lot of sweat when the growing season starts by circumventing the problem of last year's weeds developing stems like tree trunks and roots like steel hawsers, as well as limiting the emergence of the new generation of thousands of weedlings. If you still haven't pruned the roses, resolve to do it before the end of January. No, you don't have to perform a budgie's mating dance, bobbing up and down around each bush with a pair of secateurs and getting ripped to shreds with each cut. Just give them all short backs and sides with a hedge trimmer, or shears, and ignore the horrified ghost of Old Seth, the gardener royal.

You can also make a resolution to feed the potted plants this year. Even though you're never going to be organised enough to do so with fortnightly precision, you can easily fulfil this intention by pressing slow release fertiliser tablets into the compost around them in March. These last for three months, so you might also mark the calendar to remind you to repeat the process in June. While you're at it, spread slow release fertiliser granules over the flower beds. It really does make a difference. Spindly, undersized plants suddenly put out glossy, healthy leaves and flower-shop blooms, and all your friends will believe you have finally grown green fingers; or, if you're American, a green thumb.

Pick up the phone and get around to organising an automatic watering system for the container plants at last. Think of the relief at not having to stagger round nightly with the hose leaking all over your clothes and into your shoes. Train the children to become little garden helpers. Best results are achieved by starting them off very young and giving them a rusk every time they grasp the trowel handle in their tiny hands. It is, of course, far too late to waste any horticultural education whatsoever on teenagers.

Avoid bonsais. Think of the flavours of new potatoes, fresh peas and young carrots. Imagine yourself, in picture hat and Laura Ashley frock, filling a wicker basket with baby broad beans for lunch. Guys can do this ruggedly in Diesel jeans and Armani T-shirt, provided they carry a trug. Order enough seeds to fill the kitchen garden at Buck House, because this year you're going to grow your own vegetables.

Oh no, you're not. This is a great resolution, but you know it won't happen, because you make the same one every year and, on January 1, 2011, the seeds will still be unopened in their packets on the back of a shelf. In fact, the most important New Year's resolution you can make is to give up guilt. Guilt is not only a very wearing hobby. It is also more ageing than smoking 50 a day, causing not just a mouth as pursed as a belly button and scowl lines like gangland scars, but wrinkles and downwards drag that no amount of Dremu Oil will smooth and tighten.

So, if you love the skin you're in, just carry on enjoying being a lazy gardener throughout 2010. If you don't prune the roses, they'll still bloom; if you don't pull up the weeds, the summer heat will probably kill them off; if you don't involve the kids, they won't mistake your prize chrysanths for weeds and yank them out; and it's quite pleasant to be splashed with cold water while watering the plants during the summer heat.

As for the fresh veg, what are markets for?