To start with, both activities seem to require an optimistic – if not unrealistic – frame of mind. How many gardeners do you know who have "finished" their garden? How many knitters do you know who have knitted all that they want to? Constant commitment is required and for those of us who dabble with both, it's a wonder we have time to do anything else. Our shared thought processes can be seen in other ways. Some Gardeners, I understand, make the kind of New Year resolutions that wouldn't sound that unfamiliar to your common knitter: "This year, I will finish the herb garden / water feature / decking / whichever of the many projects I started some time ago and have yet to complete." "I’ll stop spending money on new plants, instead using some of the many seeds I already have (neatly stored away) or take cuttings from existing plants in my garden / those of my family and friends." "How many pairs of secateurs does one gardener need? Seriously, I need to rein in the accessory buying." Sound familiar?
Then there's the output, the finished product (if any). We are enjoying our first "crop" (and I use the word generously) of produce from the garden: Lettuce aplenty, cucumbers and strawberries continue to be consumed while there's the promise of tomatoes, raspberries and apples to come. Admittedly, none of these have been grown from seed, but most have been re-planted, watered, tendered, watered, rescued from slugs and other nasties and watered, watered and watered. Which, in our case, is done via watering can and hose – neither automatically and so both time consuming. Not that one ever does, but if one were ever so foolish as to calculate the cost of a unit of fruit / vegetable coming out of the garden, I believe the number would be eye-watering expensive, mainly due to the (wo)man hours. A bit like knitting then. Which is why most knitters, like gardeners, never claim to knit for the sole purpose of the end result: To them, the journey is just as (if not more) important than then finished product. Oh yes, this is one hymn sheet we can definitely share.
But then there are the specifics of the actual gardening "tasks". Take mowing the grass, for example. To me, this is a little like knitting Fair Isle. Now for some of you, this might be more akin to knitting plain stocking-stitch having, as you probably do, lawns made up almost exclusively of, erm, grass. Not so with us. In amongst our grass are daisies, buttercups and other green-leafed infiltrators than I quite merrily decapitate with the mower. So while I might end up with (mostly) consistent coverage of the ground, it's not all of the same plant – hence I mow Fair Isle. Speaking of mowers, we have two. The first is an electric jobby that reminds me of knitting Fair Isle with one hand: Slow and often frustrating, particularly at the end of each row, when you have to flip over the cable to prevent it been chewed up by the mower on the next run / untangle it from the feature stone unhelpfully placed in the middle of the grass. And then there's all-to-frequent emptying of the grass bag which extensively prolongs the task of mowing – often the way with these associated – and yet essential - duties. Mowing, with our sit-on tractor, now that's like knitting Fair Isle with both hands: Faster and a lot less frustrating. No cables to fuss over or restrain our movements; the bigger trailer means less frequent grass emptying, less time wasted. Oh yes, the tractor is quite the machine.
Speaking of colour work, it seems that I much prefer intarsia when working outside. I really love being able to see where – on the surface – one plant ends and another starts. I take pleasure in creating those seas of soil surrounding the islands of green stems and foliage and I'm really taking to container pots. My one wee niggle is that I don't really know what I'm doing, can't always tell weed from non-weed. Sometimes, this bothers me a great deal, especially since the previous owners of the garden (and house) are professional gardeners. I'm acutely aware that I'm undoing their hard-work and that saddens me. On the other hand, this is now our garden and we're not professional gardeners. In fact, half of this family are under that age of four and that half want the garden for (in no particular order) scootering, paddling (in the pool), eating, running, climbing, chasing (each other, me, cats etc), watering (of the patio, decking – anything that’s in easy reach of the paddling pool with a bucket) and so on. With a few exceptions, the presence or absence of anything other than grass is of little interest to them. Then the other two of us – who are quite a bit older than four – may have aspirations to return the garden to some of its former glory but are restricted somewhat by the practicalities of such a task. And in these moments, I have been known to near-strip a bed, leaving only a few pretty plants (one hopes they're not all weeds) and moving a few containers to cover the bare soil. Usually around this time, conversations meriting the value of turning the existing beds in the "big garden" back to grass may be heard but these are, so far, being rejected by the male – and, quite frankly, unrealistic – member of the parenting duo. (Harsh words, oh knitter, harsh words. Perhaps these plant beds are Husband's Stash. Ponder on that, why don't you, and then see how eager you are to purge.)
Turns out that with gardening, I'm quite the little "finisher". Not just content to cut the grass, I want to neaten the edges too. We have a strimmer to this but I confess that I don’t much like it. Using the strimmer is like weaving in ends with a crochet hook: Clumsy and without the degree of finesse that I desire. You know how the finishing can make or break a project, well so too can the strimming. Mainly I seem to be breaking the strimmer wire but the honeysuckle also had a lucky escape. Bring out the long-handled clippers, I say.
And then there's the pruning. That was my "steeking" devil as I was very, very apprehensive the first time I picked up my secateurs but now I'm happy to cut both plant and yarn. Funny how things change. As, no doubt, will my view on gardening.
But now, it's the midge-ing hour, signally the time to go inside and perhaps tonight I will seek out my needles – as, unlike the outside projects, these knitted ones don't grow themselves.