Bringing back gardens and memories

You've got to start somewhere and yes I've probably over planted but it's so nice to have some lettuces and spinach in and growing.

By Madame T

Spring has well and truly sprung and thoughts have turned to planting out my first proper vegetable patch in two years – sort of.

With a lot of the garden still full of grass, weeds and wild lemon grass (and time running out to get things growing before it gets too hot for young seedlings) I decided to empty out my four colourful rectangular raised garden troughs so I could at least grow a few small tomato varieties, some leafy greens, some mint and a bit of a strawberry patch.

The bigger garden will have to be a work in progress, I think. But a trip to the nursery for some good quality potting mix and a selection of hardy looking seedlings later and I’m on my way.

I’ve already been collecting kangaroo paws, fuschia’s and violas for a flower garden I’m planning deeper into the backyard, and I have a collection of herbs in coloured pots in my kitchen, but it feels nice to think that soon I’ll be picking off lettuce leaves and tiny tomatoes to drop into our salads.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel as comfortable in my own skin if I’m not growing something. There is something grounding about putting your hands in the soil, planting seeds and watching them germinate, grow, flower and produce food. I love putting out a long table in my (often) extensive vegie patch and eating slowcooked lamb shoulder and a big Greek salad, reaching over and picking fresh herbs or mint or rosemary while sitting at the table with friends and family.

Most of my happiest and earliest memories revolve around plants and gardens, it’s a love that has been passed down by my family – particularly my dad and his older sisters. They’re all gone now but I can’t go past a garden or to a garden shop and see certain flowers, fruits or vegetables and not think of them all.

My dad was an honorary ranger when we lived in Heathcote, Sydney on the edge of Royal National when I was a small child and so it’s hard not to see a big Waratah and not think of him. I’ve tried growing them and the beautiful Brown Boronia’s that my mum loved so much, but they don’t do well here.

He was on night shift a lot when I was small so I don’t remember having a vegetable patch at our place then, but a trip across to Como to my Aunty Marge to her elaborate vegie patch and strange varieties of chooks was a big treat – as was following her around picking tomatoes, pulling carrots and collecting eggs.

The first vegetables, fruit and flowers I really remember dad growing were when we moved out to South West NSW – back home for my dad. Big vegetable patches surrounded by chicken wire to keep the ducks, chickens and sheep out, days spent helping dad collect the manure from the afore mentioned animals spread around our tiny farmlet. We always had a colourful display of flowers by this time of year. Delphiniums, Larkspurs, Stocks, Zinnias, Flocks and my favourite Pansies- a riot of colour. Dad and I would spend hours getting the display looking amazing and then mum would come along with a pair of scissors and fill every vase in the house with flowers. He’d complain and call her Snippy but the flowers would come back bigger and better and he’d plant the same ones every year for her.

He’d also created a fruit orchard and a hedge of lilac (propagated from two old lilacs at the back of the house) down one the side of the driveway and geraniums on the other side. The geraniums were from cuttings collected from the gardens of my Aunt’s Ida and Elvie.

My Aunt Elvie’s garden was a favourite. A magic place with peacocks and an old phonebooth repurposed as the outside toilet. There was a big old tree near to her house (with it’s split door that opened in two places) providing shade and a place for the swing frequented by a couple of generations of our big bush family.

But the most magic part was the garden beds snaking around the rest of the block with hardy green grass paths providing access and places to run. In the beds were all the old-fashioned flowers you could imagine including, of course, every colour of rose and geranium you could ever find and vegies companion planted throughout. I loved to amble behind her as she pointed out the origin of everything in the garden, very few were bought from a garden centre back then and everything had it’s own story – the white double geranium from her grand mother’s house, the rose in honour of her mother, a plant my dad bought her before he went into the army.

The most remarkable thing about this garden was that this oasis existed out on the edge of the Hay Plain, nestled in a bend of the Lachlan River just outside of Booligal surrounded by saltbush, emus and claypans. It seemed like magic that it even existed and maybe it was because once my Aunt was gone the garden slowly went too.

While my aunt’s challenge was a lack of water and the dry air, my challenge is the opposite, here it can be too much water, sand and humidity. However my worst enemy is time.

So, I’m starting small this time. My four little garden troughs are now mostly filled with good potting mix and planted up.

Now I just have to get the liquid seaweed I use to feed my plants and remember to water them!

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