In praise of... · Opinion

How my garden grows

I have a collection of potted plants I like to refer to as my garden (OK, yes, sometimes I do refer to it as my lady garden, because I am that kind of hilarious). My plants are mostly edible, because I like food, and if there’s one thing my puny attempts at growing food have demonstrated is that it takes time and patience and commitment to grow the tiniest amount of food and farmers are therefore Gods that should be worshipped.

Take my tomatoes. One, cherry-tomato sized fruit so far this season (they are not cherry tomatoes). I may have planted late. Who knows? A second fruit is growing now. In another few weeks I might have one more bite of sustenance. The strawberries are doing better. I’ve eaten two deliciously sweet and juicy right off the plant and there are at least a dozen or more fruits at various stages of ripening. With a bit of luck I might have enough for a single breakfast by the time I go back to work. I boggle at the idea of sustaining myself on my own labour: it would take so much work!

The Queensland sunshine can be pretty brutal and growing is thirsty work, it seems, so I have to commune with my plants daily. I water them and chat to them, and to the bugs that thwart my ambitions. I refuse to use chemicals against bugs, so I have to monitor for invasions. I am too faint-hearted for this part of the job. I had to call in the cavalry (aka my partner) to deal with the by-then fat and happy grasshopper that had all-but devoured my mint plant. I can only crush the tiny bugs. There are spiders in the lemon and lime trees (I am growing lime spiders!) but I figure they probably eat the caterpillars that want to eat the trees, so I let them be.

This simple daily ritual gives me a ridiculous amount of pleasure. I used to think I had a black thumb: I couldn’t keep anything green alive. I said this aloud at work once and later a kindly older lady called Mo gave me two plants she told me she’d cast spells on to cure me of my belief that I can’t grow anything. It all went well at first and I grew one whole snowpea but then we went away for the weekend and when we got home they were scorched. I never told Mo, and since then I have been better at gardening.  Who knows, maybe the spell worked? Anyway, now I delight at the slow, but steady progress, and marvel at how much concentrated effort it takes to make something happen on purpose that nature does without aid.

When I was in Beijing a few years ago, I talked to an old man who lamented the loss of low-set housing from the city. He told me it is important for humans to be connected to the ground. I agree with him, I think its dangerous for us to be disconnected from that which sustains us. Convenience stores and shopping malls and mega-markets like Costco help us delude ourselves that everything comes to us easily and so we take the ready supply of food for granted. I worry about that. I worry that we aren’t fighting hard enough to protect our farmland or our food quality. But there are so many things to worry about, and I have so little time, so I just tend to my little lady garden and enjoy its hard-won fruits and hope I never have to live off what I grow.

vader garden
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