Cracker by Damian Christie


Dig This!

I wonder if it’s all just part of being a thirtysomething, but it seems, along with many of my friends, I am standing on the bridge of some sort of major life change, and am unwilling to commit to one side at the loss of the other.

On the one side, I guess the youthful side, is going out, indulging one’s hedonistic whims, writing off entire weekends in a blur of madness.

On the other side, is trips to (as opposed to tripping at) Bunning’s and tending the garden.

I rather hope I don’t have to choose anytime soon between the two, because I do enjoy both. And often they combine beautifully. I first got into gardening when, one afternoon years ago, I got rather drunk and decided I couldn’t stand the state of the backyard. Armed with a bottle of whiskey and a rusty saw, I took to it.

Just last Friday night I was at a friend’s party, indulging the hedonistic side of my nature. Next thing you know, my mate is giving me a tour of his new vege plot. “Rotational planting, thass the secret,” he slurred. “I bloody love you mate,” I replied, probably.

When we bought our first house, last year, I think we had the discussion right here about the joys of home ownership. Digging a hole in soil largely owned by the bank and planting something seemed to be up there with my newly discovered thrill of being able to bang nails in any damn wall I pleased.

Over last summer, with the help of a landscaping friend, we established a herb garden. I went crazy and planted every option I could consider. A year later I have scaled that back to herbs that I actually might use on a regular basis – surprisingly few, but all needed in large quantities – mint, coriander, parsley, rosemary for the most part.

Towards the end of summer I experimented with a few veges. Baby beets – great, but all gone in a couple of salads. Spring onions – amazing, and being able to pluck one or two at a time saved buying endless bunches from the supermarket and chucking out half of them a few days later.

This year, while waiting for a bit of warmth to get the herbs really racing along, I planted a dozen or so lettuce plants of a couple of varieties in the herb garden.  They’ve taken over (again saving festering bags of putrid greens in our fridge vege drawer). Around the edge I’ve got a few tomato plants growing – I hope the cherry tomatoes take off, they’re great in summer salads, but so pricey.

I bought a couple of special sacks in which to grow potatoes (they have Velcro side access so you can fish around for spuds without pulling up the plants), and germinated a couple of varieties – Swift and Nadine – in the corner of the lounge, planted them, and they’ve gone for gold. Again, I’m not expecting more than a few feeds of new potatoes around Christmas time, but it’s all about trial and error.

We’re trying a few things from seed this year, spring onions and basil. It’s a bit slow for my liking – even in gardening I’m a little bit instant gratification – but the spring onions are looking promising. Having a little automated irrigation system definitely helps, my cousin used to work for a big irrigation company, and still has the skill and will to do the odd cashy on the weekend. Otherwise those herb plants easily get fried on a sunny weekend, especially if you’re too busy playing on the other side of the bridge to tend garden.

In the next few weeks I’m planning to build (or have someone build for me, let’s be honest) a few big planter boxes to start a vege garden proper, without having to sacrifice too much of the lawn in the process. Beans. Corn. Courgettes. Capsicum?

I just know there are some avid gardeners out there. I want tips. I want to know what is worth growing in terms of yield vs just picking up at the supermarket.

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