Gardens Ablaze

A Gardening Blether
Monthly Column by Patrick Vickery
June, 2002

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A Goat Blether


Time to cut the grass again? Lawn mower out of action?  Borrow a goat. Yes, a goat. Not as neat as a lawn mower, granted, but good enough for me. Cuts and fertilizes at the same time.  In one end, out the other.  'Cuts the grass and feeds the lawn.'  So borrow a goat or - even better - get your own.

We have three goats ourselves and they do an excellent job of keeping the grass down, although they can be a trifle indiscriminate at times.  Mathilda, Biff and Nettle - a Toggenburg and two Saanens. The front garden is well-fenced off and so that's where we put them when the grass needs cutting. They will eat everything of course, so first we cover the bamboo, the clematis and the conifers with plastic bin liners.   They're not very good at a light strimming of course, big mouthfuls of grass from the centre of the lawn is more their thing, not good at neat edges where the grass and the fence line meet, but in general they do a good job. You could hang on to their back legs and hold them up, I suppose, direct the head sort of thing, but I don't think this would really work, no, no, not really, you'd need a sheep for that, more manageable, smaller too, though hardly acceptable behaviour, is it?

But if you do decide to go for the goat option, beware of Rhododendrons. Rhododendrons are poisonous to goats.  Nettle ate a Rhododendron once, four or five mouthfuls before we realised what was going on.  She survived to tell the tale, mind, but when we opened the goat shed the following morning we discovered the true meaning of liquid manure and projectile vomiting. Not a pretty sight. Not nice for the other goats either. But if you're careful, no rhododendrons, cover your shrubs with bin bags, then a goat will save you time and money in the long run.  A good investment, you see, for there's no petrol required, no servicing and no costly repair bills. Highly reliable too, and certainly nothing that a journey in the back of the car to the local vet won't sort out. They'll chew the car seats perhaps, maybe even the hair off the top of your head, but they don't mind a car journey at all. Affectionate animals - environmentally friendly to boot.  And let's not forget those wonderful goat droppings for the compost heap.

Now while on this theme of grass cutting, I've often wondered about those houses with turf roofs -  'Eco-houses' (is that what they're called?).  How would you get a goat up there? Sheep are no good, are they?  They'd fall off.  No, it has to be a goat, doesn't it? But how would you get a goat on the roof in the first place?  Now there's a mystery.

(Copyright: Patrick Vickery)


A Tomato Blether - January, 2002

A Tree Blether - February, 2002

A Hare Blether - March, 2002

A Surreal Blether - April, 2002

A Slug Blether - May, 2002

A Half-Man, Half-Garden Blether - July, 2002

A Blaze Blether - August, 2002

An Inanimate Object Blether - September, 2002

A Notable Quotable Blether - October, 2002

A Plant Blether - November, 2002

A Compost Blether - December, 2002

A Copper Beech Blether (or a chainsaw pruning!) - January, 2003

A Heron Blether - February, 2003

A Bergenia Blether - March, 2003

A Rose Blether - April, 2003

A Critter Blether - August, 2003

Blether Home


Patrick Vickery is a garden writer who lives in the Scottish Highlands.  He runs a small perennial plant nursery and has one book published to date: 'In Pursuit Of Perennial Profit - The Pot Of Gold At The Bottom Of The Garden' (Capall Bann Publishers. ISBN: 186163 1480), a 'How To' book about the propagation of hardy perennial plants in an environmentally friendly way, and how to make your garden productive in a variety of ways for both expert and gardening enthusiasts alike - at minimum cost and in an innovative and exciting way.  And - of course - how to sell the plants you grow (should you wish to) to raise money (not a fortune) for yourself or a particular charity or cause. 


Patrick is married with three children, lives in a two acre wood in a wonderful part of the world, uses a raised bed system of propagation and has two dogs, a cat and two goats. His second book - 'Gardening Tales - Blethers and Grunts' - a collection of anecdotal tales concentrating on the more humorous side of gardening (particularly the things that go wrong!) has recently been completed.


Patrick's book can be bought from an absolutely fascinating website full of gardening, herbal, mystical, and magical books that one would never find anywhere else.  The address is

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