Part of my new ‘good life’ plan was to have my own vegie garden. I know, just like every other escapee from the city. But I actually did it, rather than just talking about doing it.
Mind you, it took a while. I ‘planned’ for about nine months. Then, last September, I ripped out all the cliveas that were sitting in the sunniest spot in the garden (replanting them in a dead spot under some shady trees, where, I’m pleased to say, they’re thriving). I dug in several types of animal poo and compost (just call me Peter Cundall), mulched it to keep the weeds down and then… nothing.
After six or so weeks, my husband (The Builder) asked me if I was actually planning to grow anything or was I waiting for a miracle. I tried to look wise and Confucian as I answered that I was allowing the soil time to prepare itself. He muttered something under his breath about boy scouts, but left it at that.
Two weeks later he told me that if I didn’t put something in it, he was going to make a claim for land rights and turn it into a Japanese garden. It was the impetus I needed. Leaving land to 'improve' is very tempting – mostly because it’s the easiest part of gardening.
But the concept of having to rake sand around a stone pagoda on a daily basis was enough inspiration to get me out of my lull and off to the nursery. Where I purchased. And purchased.
Three months later, I have a few hard-won pearls of wisdom to share about my first vegie patch. Firstly, chances are you won’t need five tomato plants. No, really. I have just finished making tomato relish with three kilos of roma tomatoes, having given away about the same. I still have three kilos of green tomatoes to bottle, and no sign of a tomato drought yet.
Secondly, read the labels on the seedlings. Also known as – don’t take the kids to the nursery with you. I picked up what I thought were cherry truss tomatoes during a sibling kerfuffle over who got to stand on the end of the trolley and, voila! My cherry tomatoes turned out to be GIANT tomatoes. And it’s not the tomatoes that were huge – it was the bush, which turned into a trifid and took over the entire patch within minutes.
Thirdly, I love spinach. My kids love spinach. We all love spinach. But there are not enough spinach recipes in the world to make use of the amount of spinach that five small plants can produce. Ditto, capsicums.
So I guess my lesson, this time around, is to plant small amounts, often. Otherwise, there’s a major glut in the kitchen – and the birds are having a party in the backyard.