So hats off to my mother for inventing this brilliant contraption; simple but effective:
What's hiding beneath?
A lettuce seedling!
It’s a very old wire hanging basket, upside down, held to the ground with hooks, and a handkerchief of shade cloth pegged to it. Secure against UV and birds, but still letting light and air and water in. Genius!
This month’s garden Share Collective post comes from my dad’s garden. If you’re a long-time reader of Dig In, you’re familiar with the space; I’ve chronicled it before, in totally opposite conditions – good times and bad.
So as my vegie garden is quietly and slowly growing along (I’m eating my tomatoes and zucchinis!), I thought we’d travel the winding highway down the Tasman Peninsula to visit mum and dad’s garden.Let’s start by exploding the myth that some of you may be entertaining about the lush green Tassie countryside. Not so. In fact, I went to the opposite end of the state recently — to Burnie in the north-west — which is usually eye-achingly emerald. In a perverse way, I was looking forward to, well, turning green with envy. But no, there too it was brittle and beige. This hot dry summer has a lot to answer for.
Anyway, back to Boomer Bay. Dad, as you can see, clearly does not believe in mulch. He has only recently started putting it about (see the top pic), probably because I kept threatening to come down and do it for him. Time is the enemy — you may think once you’re retired, you’ll have endless, languid hours to while away; no, mum and dad say they are busier than ever. But they are also still doing ongoing work to fix the damage to their gardens from the January 2013 bushfires.
I actually had the bright idea of spotlighting dad’s garden for you after we’d done the morning harvest: ice cream containers full of scarlet runner beans (my favourite, with a strangely rough skin and flame-coloured flowers, and which I cannot grow at my place); the tomatoes — still early in the season, in all their gnarly glory. I am convinced that ugly tomatoes — ridged, bulbous, striped or blackened — have the best flavour.
Like tomatoes, I will happily ignore bland corn in the shops and wait for those brief summer weeks when dad’s crop is ready (I can’t fit corn in my vegie garden; tried one year and could fit nothing else!). The memory of homegrown corn’s sweet starchiness (and bits caught between the teeth) carries me thru until the next season.
Let’s go back and have a closer look at those tomatoes - they look a bit like someone crucified, arms outstretched. Apparently this is what you do.
Here is the work of a man who knows what he is doing — who clearly understands The Mysteries of The Tomato. This is what I will be aiming for next year. Maybe in 30 years time I will get it right (then again, my friend F does next to nothing to her tomato plants and she has pretty abundant crops. To discipline or not to discipline; that is the tomato question).
On an un-illustrated note, the fruit and berry harvests have been smaller this year. The fires destroyed some of dad’s trees; other factors have also taken their toll. Time to tend the trees has been an issue, as I said, with other garden resurrection tasks taking priority.
The parrots and other birds got in to the beautiful cleo apples before dad got to netting them, pointlessly pecking at unripe fruit then leaving it, damaged. And one Sunday of ferocious winds blew off half the quince crop, weeks before the nubbly fruit was ready.
In some ways, it’s meant we are not dealing with a glut of fruit (freezing, jamming, stewing, baking as well as eating), which can be seriously daunting. On the other hand, it is sad not to be so abundantly blessed by the usual richness of homegrown berries, stone and pome fruit.
Yes, gardening is a joy, full of pretty, delicious things, but it is also a hard lesson in realities; a reminder that Mother Nature will always have the upper hand — even if what she deals out is senseless and frustrating. Gardeners have to develop thick skins, to take the good with the bad.