ONE of the great joys of early summer is that I can set about lots of unruly plant life with an entire battery of roaring implements and deadly potions.

The lawn at Hextol Towers is only half the size it used to be, after the depredations of the dog resulted in the entire back garden being buried under many dumpy bags of pretty pebbles.

Being a fierce and protective German Shepherd meant she saw it as her sacred duty to patrol the fence all day long, hurling herself at it should anyone or anything have the temerity to walk past.

We took the precaution of installing chicken wire between the rails on the fence, before this soon developed lots of canine head shaped bulges.

Her endless parading wore down the grass virtually the full length of the garden, and on wet days, she trailed half the garden soil back into the house on her feet, so we bowed to the inevitable and laid the pebbles.

They look great, and are not as high maintenance as the grass – except where the surplus seed thrown from the bird table by profligate avian visitors creates a luxuriant selva amongst the stones.

I still have to look after the front lawn though, which sits on a steep slope, and should really be cut by a person with one leg considerably longer than the other.

Daisies abound, and no matter how low you set the blade of the lawnmower, many of them still stand proud and defiant when the roar of the engine has stopped.

The garden is flanked by a tall hedge, which I cut just once per year, after the birds have stopped nesting. This is where I deploy my two electric hedgecutters – one mains and the other battery.

Over the years, I have cut through the mains cable many times, so it is now about four feet shorter than it was when I got it, but it still works admirably. The battery cutter is fine, but would be even better if the battery lasted more than about 20 minutes.

However, unlike the mains machine, it has never set my trainers on fire through careless and improper use. My current favourite machine is the petrol powered strimmer I am occasionally entrusted with to keep the foliage down around the stables where I spend most of my mornings mucking out.

Learning how to use it has been a long and painful process, as I believe myself to be seriously mechanically dyslexic.

No matter how many times practical tasks are demonstrated to me, the information goes in one ear and escapes from the other, leaving no trace of its passing.

I first became aware of this shortcoming at school, when a patient chemistry teacher spent an entire lesson spelling out the details and practicality of something called valency. When he had finished his explanation, he asked whether I understood it now.

“Not quite sir,” I said thoughtfully. “Which bit is still giving you the problem?” he asked benignly, and he looked genuinely broken when I declared truthfully: “All of it sir”.

The penny never did drop – I still haven’t a clue what it was all about – and it was a similar story with Venn diagrams in maths, where the teacher was a little less understanding, and only narrowly missed me with a blackboard rubber which took a chunk out of the wall behind me.

In later life, it was setting the points on the distributor of a car, a process which involved a screwdriver, lots of little screws and a piece torn off a cigarette packet.

My father in law spent countless hours demonstrating the process, but he might as well have been speaking in Urdu.

Things have never improved, and when it came to the petrol strimmer, many hours of one to one tuition on threading in the heavy duty line, and starting the thing, were all the no avail.

I spent 20 minutes one morning pulling the starting cord without raising as much as a cough, until the helpful head honcho pointed out the starting switch was in the off position.

When I did get it going, I managed to lose the unlosable filler cap off the fuel tank, unknowingly dousing myself in a potentially lethal dose of petrol in the process, and then sent the spool containing the strimming line cartwheeling away to goodness knows where, taking an essential spring with it.

I think I have it all worked out now though...