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Stormy Weather

Incessant rain, rampaging ivy and a squelchy lawn have combined to make autumn a particularly trying season for gardening beginner Rachel Household

Although we haven't been flooded, our lawn has seen more than its fair share of rain in the past month. Actually 'lawn' is an exaggeration, I prefer to call that patch of our garden a quagmire. The drainage is appalling. There are never puddles, and nothing like mud since there's not enough depth to the grass to make it muddy. No, it's just squelchy and slippery. In fact, since we've been here it's never dried out. Apparently that's because it's clay, or so my mother tells me. The trouble is, there's really not much grass left. And now, with all that water, it's looking distinctly unhealthy. Alex, our two-year-old, potters out there occasionally; but the main problem is the cats. In all this rain we've had a constant procession of muddy paws through the house. How is it that they can come through the cat flap, walk through the house, up the stairs, and jump on us in the middle of the night and STILL have muddy paws? Their prints are all over the floor, shelves, bed linen - I've virtually given up trying to keep the house clean.

Richard and I have definitely decided to returf the garden next year, and thought we'd try to do it ourselves, much to the astonishment of some of our so-called friends. Just wait, is all I can say to that. But for now it looks like we're going to have to live with our soggy, patchy, uneven, so-called lawn, and its crooked, broken-up path.

Still, it's not all doom and gloom in the Household household. Although the weather hasn't been great, from the window I can see the pyracantha, which has just kept going and going, and looks brilliant with its orange berries. The spiky cordyline (thanks Mother!) is also looking good. We've had a lot of fallen leaves, which we've just left, to be honest. And luckily the apples have finished. They were a bit of a pain, falling off and rotting the moment they hit - or splatted on to - the ground.

We did manage an afternoon of tidying up with the help of my dad, cutting back bushes, binning apples and hacking at the rampant ivy that completely covers our left-hand fence. I got a bit carried away with my secateurs and found it oddly satisfying and therapeutic... We ended up with six bin bags full of ivy, and there's still a lot of it left. What we've realized is that it's holding up the fence, not vice versa. The roots are as thick as my wrist and all twisted, so it's there to stay and we'll just have to keep hacking it back. I don't want to get rid of the ivy anyway.

The thing I find most soul destroying is that the garden looked brilliant after all that work, then by the end of the following weekend it was a mess. Just like housework I suppose.

Articles reprinted with premission from

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