Ever wondered how or what makes this so called gardening bug take hold, or why some people catch it and others don’t? Take for instance my next door neighbours Martin and Francis, I’ve know these two men all my life, both are now married with families and both have very strong interests in fishing and other country pursuits.

In fact many a well cooked fish I’ve eaten in their company (no fast food here). Gardening, not a chance, no interest whatsoever, a complete waste of time especially when you could enjoy a day’s fishing or shooting. That’s why I was surprised one evening in spring 2008 when Martin called down to the nursery and asked if he could borrow our walk-behind tractor.

Certainly says I, what are you going to do? Fran and me are going to plant spuds in that piece of ground beside our yard says Martin but we won’t need the rotavator until next week and off he went. I never gave the request a second thought because I figured the chances of the boys planting spuds in the piece of ground were nil at best.

However, driving past their yard next morning I noticed a neighbour farmer ploughing the garden and the next evening he was there again, this time with a heavy cultivator making a seedbed. Martin got the lend of the walk-behind tractor a few days later and the spuds were duly planted. They planted some other items that year, cabbage, a few strawberries, nothing too difficult and the results although not great must have been encouraging because last year a new piece of ground was cultivated for potatoes and the ground from the previous year’s spuds was planted in all kinds of vegetables, peas, beans, beetroot, you name it, it was planted.  By now the fever was beginning to take hold.

The harvest improved and by spring 2010 this gardening bug had bitten so deep that a new greenhouse had to be erected to ease the pain. I visited the boys on their allotment earlier this week and I have to say it was a joy to behold. Carrots, parsnips, potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, to name but a few of the items on display and all in prime condition.

The new greenhouse had no fewer than nine different tomatoes growing inside, ranging from cherry types to beefsteaks, there were yellow ones, red ones, stripped ones and even purple ones. They even had tumbler types in hanging baskets. I am sorry to say these lads have now reached the point of no return and are already constructing extra deep raised beds to grow monster carrots and parsnips next year.

It’s bad enough being bitten by this bug yourself but the big danger is the contagious nature of this beast. I had first hand experience of this in April past when Martin’s father Mal and his friend Joe arrived at the nursery in Mal’s van and left a short time later with a load of fruit trees and soft fruit bushes.

Now I hear he is boring everyone in the pub on a Saturday night about how to grow quality fruit and I also hear on the grapevine (if you will pardon the pun) that his friend Joe is growing herbs on the window sills of his home. If we’re not careful this whole thing could reach pandemic proportions before long.

There’s a G.P who lives at the end of our road and every evening he walks down to the loughshore to watch the waterfowl and have a yarn with the local fishermen.

I think he only does it to get a crafty smoke and some evenings he calls into the nursery on his way past just for a chat. On one of these occasions I asked his views on this “gardening fever” – Could it be serious? Was there any cure for it?

He told me it was a real phenomenon with no known cure but he added it can  be kept in check if fed a constant diet of new plants and new varieties.

After he left I found myself thinking  “now  that’s one disease we don’t really want to eradicate”.