Our favourite gardening yarns

Our favourite gardening yarns

Are you avoiding mowing the lawn? Accidentally burning the garden down? Then you've got something in common with our garden storytellers.

Here are the best six stories we were sent in our 2017 'favourite gardening yarn' competition - read on, and enjoy!


Bale of hedgehogs (Green Lane Allotments)

bale of hedgehogs
Sue and Martyn had a haybale surprise

Back in June 2005 we had a surprise encounter. We had used a bale of straw to cover the dahlia tubers that we had left in the ground overwinter. We’d removed the straw, and left it in a temporary heap.

The heap was left for a month or so until my husband, Martyn decided to move it to the compost area. Knowing that piles of leaves, straw or any garden debris are often attractive nesting places for wildlife we are always careful when moving such piles and never burn heaps of non-compostable garden waste in situ.

The care taken was to prove well founded. Martyn carefully removed the top layer of straw and was surprised by a loud chorus of piglet-like squeaking. Imagine his surprise when a mother hedgehog with three tiny hoglets were revealed. As is common practice in events such as this, Martyn called me to bring my camera.

The mother hedgehog was sleeping and remained oblivious of the ‘uncovering’, but her babies were probably surprised by the disturbance. Although their eyes were still firmly shut – being probably less than two weeks old – they were likely to have been aware of being in more light.

One baby had wriggled about and left its mother's side so after a very quick photoshoot I gently placed it close to her. We were very concerned that the sudden disturbance could have adversely affected the little family and left the straw in place for a few more months to make absolutely certain the hoglets had plenty of time to mature and leave the nest.

It was with some trepidation that we eventually moved the straw but the story has a happy ending and there was no sign of mother or babies. Hopefully, they were happily foraging for tasty slugs and snails, of which there’s a plentiful supply on our plot.

Inspirational squash (Bohemian Raspberry)

bohemian raspberry squash harvest 2017
Bo's squash represented much more than just cultivation

This is my squash haul for this year, out of nine different varities and 18 plants that I'd sown back in May this is all I have to show for myself. I know what you’re thinking, it's a pretty pathetic harvest. But these three squashes are my proudest accomplishment from the allotment this year! Why? Because these three tiny squashes are fighters, and for me, represent my battle with depression earlier this year.

One day back in July, I finally managed to get up, get dressed and visit my plots. When I got there and went into my polytunnel all my seedlings were lifeless, pot bound, dehydrated and sorry looking souls either dead or hanging on by a breath. It made me feel terrible. There were just seven almost alive squash plants out of 18. I planted them up with my fingers crossed they'd pull through.

Most of them didn't, but these three did, and it has made me so proud, because just like with mental health if you show a little bit of hope, a little bit of care and a little bit of resilience, you too can grow and bounce back, just like I did. I truly believe gardening saved me this year.

It's such a strong mindful therapy. Nature nurtures you in a way so silent yet strong it's the first place I go for a pick me up when I'm feeling under the weather and it always helps me finish the day feeling brighter.

Suspicious fungus (Blackberry garden)

fungus in the ground
Had Alison uncovered a seam of truffles in her garden?

I was weeding the raised vegetable borders one day when I became aware of something a bit odd, just under the surface of the soil. I carefully moved some of the soil to one side to reveal a rather odd-looking fungus.

I tentatively poked at the fungus with my trowel. It seemed to be quite spongy and springy. I was intrigued and moved more soil to the side to uncover it. I couldn’t work out what it was at all.

I then got brave and decided to cut into the top of the fungus. As I did so, I could see it was a whiteish colour inside and, well, sort of breadlike in texture. The more I looked the more I realised it was breadlike because it was actually a bread roll, or cob as they are called here. I then dug it out and it’s cobness was confirmed.

I couldn’t understand how it came to be buried in my vegetable border, but I decided it was probably a fox. For months after this I got used to finding random bread products half-buried all over the garden. They stopped appearing as suddenly as they started, and I never saw the bread fairy in action.

Conifer conifire (The propogator blog)

fire in the garden
Always take care with a garden bonfire!

Some years back, I cut down a line of conifers on my garden’s boundary. They were getting big and would have shaded the entire garden if left to their own devices. There were about about 15 of them, around 12 feet high. It was hard work cutting them down, but I made an impressive pile in a disused part of the garden. I then focused on digging up the stumps and putting in the new fence, all of which took a few weeks.

By this time the felled trees were drying out, but still quite green. How can I get rid of all these old trees, thought I. Haven't had a bonfire for ages, let's burn them! I spread them out a little bit, and without giving it too much further thought, began making a little pile of kindling in the middle. As soon as I put match to wood the whole pile began very quickly to burn fiercly, too hot to get close to.

Very quickly I had a proper bonfire on my hands, well out of scale for my ordinary suburban garden. In an exercise in pure futility I ran to get the hose, which didn't quite reach that end of the garden. To add to the fun the hose nozzle had broken, so I just had mains pressure coming out of bare hose. The "jet" of water didn't reach the fire, forcing me to squeeze the end of the hoze, resulting in two thin streams of water to just about hit the fire.

This had zero impact. At this point my wife came to see what was going on, suggesting that perhaps it was time to call the fire brigade. My battered pride would have given in then if it wasn't for the fact that the fire had by then burnt itself down to a more manageable size.

Next door's apple tree was quite badly singed, a trellis was burnt and the fence was not far from going up in flames.

In the end I got away with it, but it was a pretty hairy ten minutes, now a family legend, growing in the telling. The kids in particular think it's hilarious, even though it was before their time, or they were too small to remember.

Unwelcome visitors (The anxious gardener)

bovine invasion to the garden
Not what you want to encounter when you reach the garden...

I work in two large gardens and both attract a mix of unwelcome visitors: rabbits, moles, badgers, deer and, on occasion, a lonesome sheep and even a bull. But the least welcome of all was a full herd of cows. One morning, on arriving at work I saw a distant black and white animal amongst some trees. It was only as I walked closer that I realised that it was a calf, and beyond her, up by the greenhouse, my eyes met the curious gaze of twenty cows. They had broken through a fence and, in this top corner of the grounds, were busy grazing through my asparagus bed.

Panicking, I phoned the farmer for help and, grabbing a stick, resolved to keep the cattle cornered and away from the garden; at which point they ran past me like a herd of wildebeest and swept out across the lawns. A house-guest, clad in pink dressing gown and fluffy slippers, ran out to help me. (She'd seen a cow trot past the kitchen window).

Together, we herded them away from the house, yelled as they headed toward the long borders, shrieked as they approached the vegetable beds, opened a gate and ordered them out onto the drive. They didn't want to go out onto the drive. With luck alone, we eventually coerced them back up towards the greenhouse and the gap in the fence; where they turned to face us.

As we discussed our next move, and prepared for another bovine break-out, we heard the farmer yodelling her unique cow-call as she walked down through her fields from the farm. She was still a 100 yards away but amazingly it worked. The cows passed calmly through the fence and went to her like well-trained dogs.

Other than hoof-prints on the lawns, a few too many cow-pats, a broken post-and-rail fence, beads of sweat on my forehead, a mucky pink dressing gown and a stripped bare asparagus patch you’d never have known that a herd of cows had paid a visit. I got off lightly.

Why I don't mow the lawn (The middle-sized garden)

middle sized garden's lawn
Alexandra's lawn doesn't always get the attention it could...

My most embarrassing gardening story probably involves my attempts to mow the lawn. My other half usually does it, but he was very busy and stressed so I decided to do it for him. Of course, I put diesel in the petrol engine (or the other way round, I have no idea). So I had to ring the lawn mower repairer and get them to come round without him noticing. He works at home, so tiptoeing out with a lawn-mower is a challenge in itself.

Then I had to somehow get the lawn mowed without him getting involved. A neighbour came over one afternoon when he was out (pushing her lawn mower down the street, which got a few funny looks). Then the mower repairer managed to smuggle the repaired mower back in.

Alas, the mower wasn't just repaired. It had been cleaned, and looked suspiciously shiny. I hastily tried to cover it up by mowing the lawn with it, but didn't realise you could set it to different speeds. The speed the repairer had set it to was too fast for me, so the mower took off in a zig-zag across the lawn, while I hung on for dear life, coming to a halt at the edge. I managed to mow the whole lawn in a series of zig-zags and circles.

'It's quite good,' commented my other half, looking puzzled. 'But what I didn't understand is why you didn't go in a straight line.'

I have never mown the lawn again.

Which is your favourite? Vote for the best, and they'll win a prize! Click here to go to the voting form at the top of the page.

We had some great entries for this, and we'd like to give honourable mentions to Allotment Mum, Veg Plotting, Square Sparrow, and Claire's Allotment for their contributions. It's all much appreciated.

Lead image: Michael Stankus/Shutterstock

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