by Bec H
At least that’s what they say. But there’s no guarantee that those words speak the truth.
My veggie garden is a case in point. I could show you some beautiful photos of it which would lead you to believe that it is a highly productive, well-looked after plot and something to be envied.
The unfortunate truth is that it’s over-run, over-grown and a mess. And I have photos to prove that too.
But first, let me take you back. When I wrote my last post, I still had every intention of making tomato relish to enter in our local annual Show. Alas, despite my best foraging efforts, I just did not have enough tomatoes in my garden. And no, purchasing tomatoes was not an option. The beauty of my relish is the sweetness of the home-grown tomatoes. Making a batch with shop-bought toms would have resulted in a raspberry from the judges, no surer thing.
So at the last minute, and in a desperate bid to enter something in the Show (to demonstrate my support for the local community and the efforts of the show committee, not because of any deep-seated competitiveness on my part), I decided on a bunch of herbs. Two bunches in fact – one of thyme and one of rosemary. People often comment (well, sometimes.. OK, one person once said something) on how amazing my herbs look and I thought what a great opportunity to put them to the test and see just how good they really are. So on the day before the Show I lined up with my form and submitted my two entries for judging, into Section 15, Class 17: Herbs, fresh bunch (one variety).
I have to admit to a wave of delight when I walked into the Produce Pavilion on Show Day, surveyed the herbs on offer and my attention was drawn to the red certificate next to my rosemary – Second Prize! Quite a thrill. No blue ribbon for me, but the red certificate is praise enough. It’s now proudly displayed on our fridge, and will stay there until Show Day 2013.
This brought me to reflect seriously on my veggie patch, and specifically the sorry state it was in. How could an award-winning herb grower be at the helm of such an out-of-control kitchen garden? I’d like in part to blame the weather. The problem with the record-breaking wet summer that we’ve just had is that the things you do want to grow, don’t – like the tomatoes that just swelled and burst with all the rain; and things you don’t want to grow flourish – like the weeds and kikuyu grass. Curse that kikuyu grass.
The other part of the blame I’d like to lay at the feet of our seemingly too short 24 hour days. With a (just turned) 3 year old son and working part-time I struggle to find the time the veggie patch demands (yes, I know, I too have friends who seem to do it all. One works full-time, has three kids and still manages the up-keep of a delightful veggie patch. She also has 4 worm farms in constant, high level production, and she completed a diploma in horticulture part-time while working full-time in marketing. Damn her!).
The scrumptious images of veggie patches we see in gardening books and on lifestyle TV shows result in high expectations, on our part. It’s all very well to present shots of sublime vegie gardens in gardening books and in a ‘real-time’ half hour TV show, transform bare patches of suburban backyards into thriving, productive vegetable plots.. but the reality is somewhat different. As rewarding as I find my veggie patch, it’s hard work and it needs regular attention.
That said, with The Kid at pre-school yesterday, I took to the garden with a pair of secateurs, a shovel, a fork and brute strength. Thank goodness for the late summer-like weather we’re experiencing. Finally, no rain.
So now the veggie patch is looking a little more respectable but it still needs a ute-load of composted soil, a few bags of chook pooh and half a ute-load of horse manure mixed with sawdust (from some local stables) and then finally a new selection of seedlings (from my neighbour, who has a market garden). Then we’ll be back in business.
Amazingly, despite the neglected state of the garden, I was encouraged, in my clean-up to find a few treasures under all the growth. The surprise parcel of shallots I discovered hiding under thick green tomato plants bearing no fruit will be great for casseroles and stews as the weather starts to cool. The rhubarb is going nuts and I’ve picked a bunch to make rhubarb crumble. The yellow squash and yellow ball zucchini were delicious fried up with olive oil, salt and pepper. Even The Kid got stuck into them. The basil suddenly loves the current conditions and is growing even as you watch it – must make some basil pesto. Having removed small clumps of renegade lemongrass, the strawberry patch is now breathing easy again. The thyme is thick and green and there’s a renewed supply of rocket, now uncovered. Removing a large clump of nasturtiums gone mad, I even spotted some flat leaf parsley and coriander that have self-seeded. And happily, the marjoram and oregano are going great guns – I just couldn’t see them until now.
And so after a full (pre-school) day’s work, it’s starting to look more like a veggie patch worthy of housing award-wining rosemary.