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September 2011

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Too much to ask?

Rachel Darlington reflects on the art of being a good neighbour

Summer holidays can present some specific challenges. We want to go away but how will our gardens fare without us? And it can also be tough on our poor unsuspecting neighbours. A casual mention is made to the neighbour that we are going away for a few days and would the neighbour be good enough to mind his plants. It's a reasonable enough request and, besides, there really is very little to do. Just one or two seedlings to water every few days but that's it really because it's mid-season and the garden really takes care of itself. The neighbour agrees hesitantly and the day before he drops down to check what needs doing.

He is led out to the greenhouse to see the seedlings that need watering. There does seem to be an awful lot of them but, as it is explained, it is as easy to water one or two as it is to water one or two dozen. The owner mentions in passing how the tomatoes and peppers need some attention. And, as the neighbour will need to venture into the greenhouse anyway, he might as well tend to the tomatoes while he's there. But this will be no trouble really as the kind neighbour can help himself to the ripe vegetables. Just be careful to pick all the ripe veg or otherwise the plants will stop producing.

The neighbour shuffles a bit in hesitation but can think of no way to back down now.
The owner then goes on to explain how the plants can be watered - mostly from above but the seedlings need to be watered from below, in their tray. Tap water may be used for all except the carnivorous plants which must have rainwater. The rainwater is held in the butt outside and great care should be taken not to put tap water on carnivorous plants or they will die and they did cost quite a bit of money.

At this stage the neighbour is well and truly regretting ever having agreed to such a mammoth undertaking but can't see any way of wriggling out of it. While he's desperately searching for some excuse, there's talk of watering tomatoes in the morning but checking the vulnerable seedlings at least twice a day. If it's very hot, the greenhouse must be misted. And just as it is mentioned that the succulents must be put outdoors on such occasions, the neighbour suddenly remembers a wedding he must attend in Donegal, and nearly injures himself on a spiky agave in his hasty retreat!



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