March was the wettest and gloomiest month on record and so is April so far, so the next few weeks gardening looks like being essentially a holding operation. Don’t for heaven’s sake plant, sow or otherwise introduce any new growth into your patch; you’ll be lucky to hold on to what you’ve got.
Some experts advise you to sit tight until the weather improves and do nothing, but I am not one of the prayer-and-meditation school of gardeners. I prefer to get out there and act now to prevent the disasters to come, and here is my eight-point plan of action. Cut it out and keep it in a waterproof place, perhaps next to your heart.
1. Get everything in the garden properly insured. You’d be amazed how many gardeners have little or nothing in their garden covered by an adequate policy against the worst that nature can do, and yet it’s so simple to get a good quote from a company specialising in marine disasters or salvage. There is no need to insure against every eventuality but at least you should be protected against storms, hurricanes, typhoons, wrack, sea-serpents, flood, mange, rot, blood on the moon, the parting of the Red or any other Sea, landslides, headless horsemen, spells, nearby performances of Macbeth, cats, dogs, and well-meaning neighbours.
2. It takes no more than an overnight inch or two of rain to turn your garden from a dry mess into a morass, so make sure that you have a well-prepared emergency flood system. At the very least there should be sluices and flood-gates fitted at focal points on your paths, and if you have a barrage system, so much the better. Older gardens may be fitted with a canal-type lock system, which is slow but usually efficient, though the tow-path usually turns into a quagmire; don’t plant on it. Best of all is if you can arrange for flood water to flow quietly into next door’s garden. Further books for study include The History of The Mississippi Delta, The Cruel Sea and Arranging Flood Water To Flow Quietly Next Door.
3. Do have the right distress flags ready. If the worst comes to the worst and your garden is completely submerged and you are trapped in the attic by rising waters, there’s nothing worse than finding out that the only big flag you have to hand is the one meaning “Keep away - we have greenfly”. You must have the basic emergency ones to hand – “Help- Compost Heap Has Just Floated Through The Front Door”. “Cease Fishing Immediately – Our Goldfish Have escaped” and “Gnome Overboard”.
4. Lash all plants to a post. A simple precaution, but you’d be surprised after a storm how many apparently tough plants have been bent or snapped, simply because they did not have a small concrete post supporting them. Concrete is preferable to sticks, because at this stage of the year your plants are indistinguishable from sticks. Better still, pre-snap all plants before a storm. Even better, have no plants at all. Best of all, sell all you have and move to the sun.
5. Make sure your statuary is all lagged. Whether you go in for gnomes or eighteenth century Italian masterpieces, no sculpture is immune to the weather, and the constant interplay of cold and heat, damp and dry, will soon crack the toughest statue. So wrap them up well during the bad weather. Polythene can look unsightly; I find it amusing to put my goddesses and nude Greeks into fancy dress, old clothes, amateur dramatic costume, etc. I have one very amusing group at the moment entitled “The Goddess Diana Surprised by VAT Inspectors”.
6. Make sure you know your salvage rights. If your best plants are washed next door and take root there, can you claim them back? Conversely, if valuable tools or rollers are blown from next door into your garden, do you have the right to claim salvage money? And when gardens are under water, are they subject to land or marine law? Find out the answers to all such questions in our little booklet, Why Not Sell All You Have and Move To The Sun?
7. To be on the safe side, build a small ark at the bottom of your garden. The ideal material would be gopher wood, and it should be about three hundred cubits long. If possible, take a pair of very living specimen from your garden with you. For complete instructions on this traditional but efficacious craft, send up for our complete instruction manual, The Bible.
8. Finally, be ready for a snap election. Your tax and investment situation could change suddenly overnight, and that tax-loss ornamental pond could without warning become a capital liability. If Labour get in, heaven knows which bit of your property you might find nationalised – a state-owned front lawn is something none of us wants to think about. Have you thought seriously about maintaining a home here in Britain, but having your garden somewhere safe overseas, in a sunny, inflation-proof clime? Why not send up for our other horticultural publication, Off-Shore Gardening For Fun and Profit, Especially the Latter?
The independent 1991