Garden helpers come in all shapes and sizes, including David Lowther with his tractor. (Mary Lowther photo)

Garden helpers come in all shapes and sizes, including David Lowther with his tractor. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: The pros and cons of helping hands in the garden

Even the most grounded of us need an extra pair of hands.

By Mary Lowther

Solitary gardening can be good for the soul, tilling the soil with your hands while your mind considers the Earth. There are times, however, when the number of seedlings to be planted, weeds to be removed and invading varmints to be repelled are simply too much, and even the most grounded of us need an extra pair of hands. This is where David comes in.

It’s his own fault, really. I made a few (hundred) remarks over the years about how much I would like a larger garden but it was David who decided to buy the acreage across the road. It was David who cut the trees, pulled the stumps, cleared and fenced the land and then turned it over to me as if his part of the project was complete and I could till the land while he moved on to pastures new, returning betimes to help me consume the harvest. Imagine his shock when he learned this was not his future! Besides, he is more affordable than hired help and exempt from labour legislation. I also know where he sleeps.

He does have his drawbacks, though. I can ignore the whining, but David is pretty obsessive compulsive; when he hangs a picture, for example, he uses a laser level. Just imagine how he can complicate trimming a cedar hedge. Nonetheless, once shown the difference between the weeds and the crop he was easily trained to use a hoe, although he takes a bit longer to weed because he has to dig out every sprout down to the deepest root, but once he’s done those weeds are history.

I have to admit I enjoy having company. When I had an allotment garden I enjoyed talking with my experienced neighbours, who shared the benefit of their years of experience. It was pleasant to swap stories and tips with people who knew how to use the business end of a shovel, but when the work piled up (often quite literally) they had their own plots to tend and good help is hard to find.

I tried indoctrinating my kids, but they were more interested in chasing the ducks and quail. They also had a weakness for my neighbours’ prolific raspberry canes that left them with happy smiles and their mother terrible guilt without much actual assistance. In an ideal world one can get to the garden every day, but this far from ideal world has distractions like work, parenting and other time consuming nonessentials. Another pair of hands can halve the time if they know what to do. In those long ago days I tended to wing it, but I should have planned ahead of time and known what to delegate before taking David to the garden. Seriously.

He was willing and a great help at first, but decided I needed to be more organized and set about it for me. Because I spent half an hour every time organizing my tools, David built me a terrific box the size of Goliath’s coffin for them. It was also as watertight as Noah’s Ark and floated away when the creek beside the garden flooded every year. Naturally, it was perfectly square and absolutely level. He built me trellises and cold frames, also perfectly square and absolutely level, and then spent 10 days deciding what colour he should paint them. I was greatly relieved when he moved on to help other gardeners organize their plots as well, until they elected him Secretary of the Association. After that when I needed help I had to book him a week in advance.

Kids make unreliable helpers but they generally don’t think they know more than we do until puberty, and this isn’t that kind of advice column. At least they don’t suggest better ways to garden. When you have carefully planned YOUR garden there’s nothing more aggravating than asking someone for help and having them tell you how you could be more “efficient,” especially on the rare occasion they happen to be right. I have semi solved this problem with David by encouraging him to buy a small tractor and persuading him to move a large pile of dirt from one end of the acreage to the other. Now when I am gardening alone I spend my time thinking of reasons I can use to get him to move it back when he is finished. I’ll keep you posted.

Please contact with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Abby Dyer of Shawnigan Lake School. (Submitted)
Shawnigan Lake School poet wins to prize

Abby Dyer has won first place in the Senior Poem category in the Legion’s Youth Remembrance Contest

The Cowichan Valley Regional District has applied for a $199,000 grant to upgrade its emergency communication systems that are used during such events as the major windstorm that hit the Valley in 2018 (pictured).
CVRD looks to upgrade emergency communications with grant

Staff say communications issues plague emergency response efforts in area

A police car at the scene of a child’s death Friday, April 9, at the Falcon Nest Motel in Duncan. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
RCMP investigating child’s death at Duncan’s Falcon Nest Motel

First responders attended to a call about an unresponsive child at the… Continue reading

Brent Clancy, president of the Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce, takes down the signs at the Lake Cowichan Visitor Centre, which closed its doors for good on Jan. 31. Mayor Bob Day says the possible creation of a Town tourism committee is not a response to the closure. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Town of Lake Cowichan looking to form tourism and housing committees

Decision not related to the Lake Cowichan Visitor Information Centre closure

“Representing the school district, legion, and Kaatza Station Museum left to right are Georgie Clark of the museum, Wilma Rowbottom of School District #66 and Ernie Spencer, representing the Legion. The museum and Legion, along with the Village will each take a piece of the old wood shop.” (The Lake News)
Lake Flashback: Soapboxes, woodshop split, taxes down

Remember these stories from Lake Cowichan?

People take part in an anti-curfew protest in Montreal on Sunday April 11, 2021. Hundreds of people gathered in Old Montreal tonight in defiance of a new 8 p.m. curfew. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giuseppe Valiante
VIDEO: Hundreds defy Montreal’s 8 p.m. curfew in violent, destructive protest

Quebec reported 1,535 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, as well as five additional deaths linked to the virus

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

Most Read