November 15, 2009 | Ronda Jambe


Gardening is not a hobby for those seeking ROIs, or rent, or even a full larder. ‘Wouldn’t want to live off what I grow’ is my grateful mantra. Grateful because real farmers grow my food, and a real supermarket puts the cornucopia at my fingertips. Almonds? Any day of the week. Ditto the fruit, veg, cheese. No serious gardener takes any of that for granted. And some, like the fellow in England who colonises new places for veggies, touch the world with their passion for all the fruits of the soil. Is his name Bounty?
There is much to be done, always. The bad things are reliable, the good bits a blessing. The skies open, they shut, the sun burns, the insects feast. I struggle, determined to at least maintain the once-gorgeous garden that first lured us to this house. But that was just before the Canberra bushfires, and then the tougher water restrictions came in. The luxurious sprinkler system could no longer be used, and watering 1600 m2 of lush foliage became a real challenge in the prolonged (indefinite?) dry. The lawns were abandoned, they can fend for themselves.
All aspects of gardening are endless. Rake up the leaves, and a week later they reappear. Pull some weeds out of one bed, and they pop up in the next. And things evolve, move around, change places. You have to keep at it, all year round, or pay the price of neglect.
After a false start with individual drippers we were persuaded to adopt the brown hose solution. People in less hydronically (?) challenged climes might fnd it difficult to imagine that water has to be so carefully targetted to avoid waste. The idea is the hose has little holes with one-way valves that keep dirt from clogging it. They form a tear-shaped wet area beneath the surface, goes the theory, that provides moisture directly to the roots.
brown hose.jpg
They went in 3 years ago, and then the soil was mulched by the tonne. Now the soil needs building, so a fresh load of soil needs to be distributed. For a small fee, 10m3 of top soil was dumped in the drive way. With spouse in hospital and limping, the uber frau gets into it on weekends, early before the heat sets in.
dirt mountain copy.jpg
After a couple of months, little had moved. Things were colonising it, bad things. I briefly considered just planting the dam hill with veggies, but the esthetics weren’t right. So it will be shifted. But before the dirt can go on the garden beds, the hose has to be liberated from the mulch which now has lots of roots. Also, someone must crawl around under all the plants and patrol the edges, to search for and destroy any signs of ivy or wisteria. Gardeners are more secretive than the Masons; they never admit that at least half of gardening is about killing things.
As Queen of my block and section, I exercise power of life or death over most of the plants. Others, like the ivy, I wage regular raids on. And so, having decreed them undesirable in my kingdom, I have been executing by the hundreds ‘things that want to be trees’ as I generically call them. Each one makes a tiny popping sound as I pull them out by the roots. It’s quite satisfying, as not much survives that treatment. I hope it hurts and they tell their mates to stay away from the merciless green godess. I know they will be back, but so will I, as this exercise repeats with the seasons.
tiny trees.jpg
In some places I have to dig the hose out from under the mulch. Only when the hoses are lifted and their metal hoops loosened or set aside, can dirt throwing begin.
Some of the hoops get lost, probably to become part of the archelogical record. They are also very valuable for making bike racks, as I recently discovered.
bike rack.jpg
Between the heat, the ill spouse and my back that can only take about 4 barrows at a go, it is looking like a long summer. I am not the sort who courts blisters, so there will be no heroics. There has to be time to enjoy the ladies’ bonnets.
ladie's bonnets hue and sat.jpg
And of course, every day my motivation is reinforced. For some a carrot is better than a stick. For others, a lettuce or 200 will do as well. Every day I bring a bagful to work, or the neighbors. I want them to find it habit-forming, and soon we’ll all be exchanging home grown goodies in states resembling ecstacy. For a real Bachanale, maybe the plums one fellow promised in return will be fermented. That’s my vision for the new public service, but I don’t dare tell Kevin.
Spouse will hopefully get better soon. Meanwhile, there will be more trekking to the hospital, more trips with the wheelbarrow, more looking at the sky and willing it to rain.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 3:33 pm | Comments (2) |


  1. Great blog…I am usually cynical about these things(blogs) but with the photos and all I found it interesting. Oh and the word you couldn’t wrap your head round is “hydroponically”…
    Once again, well done.

    Comment by dedsetmad — November 18, 2009 @ 11:01 am

  2. thanks, but isn’t hydroponics about growing plants in water? I was trying to get the idea of ‘being generally in a state of desperation regarding water’, a term which perhaps still needs inventing.

    Comment by karin — November 19, 2009 @ 4:51 am

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