May 27

The learner gardener – just do it

Perfectly positions: This parsley plant sprouted in a handy spot on our driveway. It's admired by visitors and appreciated by us.

Perfectly positioned parsley: This plant sprouted in a handy spot on our drive. It’s admired by visitors and appreciated by us.

Here’s a gentle plea to all those passionate people who exhort the rest of us to grow our own food – kindly stop insisting it’s all such jolly good fun.

These gardeners – who you’ve seen on telly and read about in newspapers and magazines – gush and enthuse and rave and chortle. Gardening is in fashion and they’re thrilled. They keep using the word ‘joy’ and give the impression it’s possible to whip up a vegetable patch in no time – and that every moment is fun.

I suspect many people think they might start a small vegetable garden given the cost of veggies, but then they watch a telly gardening guru or attempt to read a gardening magazine and conclude they’re missing one vital ingredient: enthusiasm.

They might also be missing the necessary know how, but don’t get to test that theory for fear they lack the necessary zip, zeal and zest.

Take it from me, it’s not necessary to be passionate about gardening. It’s a matter of putting one foot in front of the other.

Devote five minutes, ten minutes, half an hour. Set a kitchen timer.   Clock watching is good – most of us have done it in our day jobs. Put it in your diary. Consider it work, consider it exercise, consider it cheap food.

If you don’t like gardening – or don’t know if you like gardening – reading how-to articles will numb your brain and your eyes may glaze over during telly programmes. Just do it. You’ll make mistakes. It doesn’t matter.

I thought tomatoes grew on frames like climbing beans until one year it dawned on me I should stake each plant. Surprise! A bumper crop. But the following year something called ‘blight’ killed the lot.

The flower garden by the front door has looked more orderly ever since a friend thrust cuttings at me and said, ‘Plant these, they’ll spread.” And they did.

Don’t aim for pleasure. If you get it, that’s great, if not, you’ll get food. The first sneaking feel-good moment might not hit you in the garden. My first buzz happened in the supermarket on one rare day when I had to buy only spuds and bananas.

You might find the sudden spurt of growth after rain a thrill – assuming weeds haven’t outgrown your plants.

Right now I’m keeping a watch on parsley and wild flower seeds from last year’s crop that went to seed. No shoots so far, but I’m ever hopeful and the rampant parsley plant on our driveway compensates.

It appears that slowly, slowly, the most reluctant gardener might, just might, find it fun to play with plants. If not, the buzz at the supermarket check-out will suffice.

About the author

Rae Roadley

Rae is a journalist, freelance writer and writing tutor. Soon after returning to her hometown to work for Northland's daily newspaper, she met beef and sheep farmer Rex Roadley. He lived in a historic home at Batley on the Kaipara Harbour and after moving there, Rae reported on farming then wrote a newspaper column, The Country Side. Her wryly amusing tales of country life earned many followers and led her to learn more about the local people, past and present. She tells the story of her new life in 'Love at the End of the Road: Finding my heart in the country'.


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  1. Lynley

    Apply the KISS principle too – if it works, do it. My vege garden is very limited – some tubs and large pots…..I can grow great lettuce and silver beet year round. Dwarf beans usually do well too in summer. I thought I was great at growing garlic but black aphid last year made my crop rather diminished.

    1. Rae Roadley

      Scarlet runners are great – and the roots sprout again the following year. Lettuce, bok choy, broc – all good. I grow elephant garlic with great success. It’s a rellie of leek which are also easy. Also my rocket have gone to seed and are now resprouting – I’m intending to make pesto any day now. Seems we are gardeners of the same feather – although that could be mixing metaphors – of the same spade, perhaps.

  2. Maureen

    …and sometimes trying to grow your own veges gets more expensive than the bought ones!

    1. Lynley

      I’ve found that too Maureen.

    2. Rae Roadley

      Good point. Tomatoes are in that category for me. After endless fuss and wateringthey ripen at the time they cost next to zilch in the supermarket. This year a plant grew wild and produced heaps – no watering or care from me.

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