You may have noticed that, for years, I have described myself as a passionate sewist and knitter and quilter etc. etc. but have always added “… and pretty hopeless in the garden”. Well folks … that remains true!
Sometimes this mystifies me. Both sets of grandparents and my mum are brilliant gardeners – with the grandparents producing most of their vegetables. I surely did not inherit their green thumbs or innate knowledge of what to do with that soil and seed. And we had wonderful soil here at Wombathill Farm – dark and rich and hummusy with plenty of earth worms – I was sure that all I would need to do is hurl the seeds in and voila! A kitchen garden would appear.
Alas this has not happened. My first efforts, this time last year, were regularly trampled by the doggles and ducks. What was left was gobbled up by a nightly invasion of bush rats and rabbits. So we tried little fences around each bed – not helpful. Then we netted the beds over metal hoops. Stopped the marauders but also made it very tricky for us to access. The veggies grew up through the netting thus trapping it into position and efforts to harvest the tomatoes, brocoli and beans resulted in the tearing of plants. Hopeless! So then we ditched the hoops and mesh and Julian built a fence around all the beds with a sweet old door. This has created a lovely space – very secret gardenish and I do love closing that door behind me and spending hours pottering over my beds – however, still no veggie success.
I have planted bed after bed after bed of seeds. Carefully reading up on the likes and dislikes of each plant. Digging and composting and mulching. And watching in dismay as my lovely hummusy soil has turned into powdery cinnamon and very few of those seedlings have sprouted. I have 3 corn plants. Five zucchini. Two cucumbers. Seven chickpeas. Three surviving salsify – after I mistook their very successful germination for an invasion of grass and ripped them all out!!!!! I think a couple of beetroot have appeared. I’ve yet to see any silverbeet. Oh there’s 3 watermelon. And a fabulous pumpkin vine for which I can claim no credit – the guinea pigs planted it and I don’t even know what kind of pumpkins they are! None of my raspberries produced anything. My blueberry hedge has survived – so that’s a win. As have my sentinel olive trees and cornering crepe myrtles. And I think every one of my sweetpeas have sprouted – too which Julian responds “but can we eat them!” But it will be a miracle if the coffee plants survive. And there’s no sign of the radishes or carrots. Sigh.
Why such failure!? Well, I’m hoping it’s not complete idiocy on my part but probably a dire lack of water. All those aforementioned kinfolk – apart from Nanny and Grandad’s few years on Mt. Tamborine – have grown their lovely gardens with the on-tap assistance of TOWN WATER. Us? We are currently limited to two rainwater tanks. And when there is no rain there is no water. There’s been no careful sprinkling of seeds to keep them moist and encourage their feisty germination. There’s been no early morning water to help everyone make it through the very hot days we’ve had. Nup. My poor, carefully chosen seeds are clearly laying in their beds of dry cinnamon thinking to themselves “well we ain’t putting any effort into popping up out of the ground if there’s nary a drop to drink!”
I called into a Canberra Bunning’s recently and made a quick dash to the plant area to ooh and aah over the loveliness – you should have seen it, it was huge and thriving and awash with water! Everything was dripping and glistening. There were puddles on the ground. I could feel the water in the air. I didn’t know whether to cry or gasp in delight. Yep, it’s fair to say that this summer I have developed an overwhelming appreciation for the life giving properties of water. I stood there, absorbing all the damp loveliness, green with envy!
However, there’s no point sitting back with a pout and deciding it’s all too hard. We WANT to grow our own food. Surely, just as I learnt to knit and quilt and sew etc., I can learn to garden. And the water? Well, we just have to put in the infrastructure to catch and use more. Next week, a local dam builder will hopefully drop by, survey our two small dams and come up with a plan for making them bigger and maybe even adding another up closer to our house. Then Julian will set up a pump to carry that precious water up the hill to a third newly order tank and we can then use that to water the garden and orchard with the most water conserving sprinkler system we can find. And Julian has wonderful plans for creating swales to catch and guide the rainwater as it runs down our hill, directing it into the dams and future orchards.
Until then? Well, I shall keep slipping down into my garden, closing the door behind me, brewing my cowpoo tea. Pulling out the weeds. Ooohhing and aahhing over each wee seedling that finally uncurls its head. Sweet talking the pumpkins and blueberries. And you never know, I may even eventually prove equal to those guinea pig gardeners of mine!