Wednesday, 14 August 2013

my conversion story: how & when i became a 'gardener'

My earliest gardening memory is sitting under the veranda making my very first (and last) mud pie, while my parents resentfully weeded the backyard. In true show-and-tell style, I held the pie to my mother’s eye line to present my feat. She was not impressed. In fact, she was horrified. I was cleaned up and put inside, safe away from the evils of insects, weeds and dirt. My second gardening memory was being stung by a bee. My third, a bird ‘went potty’ on my forehead. 

A consequent fear of ick, pain and general yuck-ness led to a fear of home gardening and a Vitamin D deficiency. While I liked the idea of the great outdoors, I feared the mud and ‘hurties’ a garden could bring. 

When we introduced ourselves to our neighbours after buying our home (five years ago) they kindly but firmly informed us that the previous owners were passionate and capable gardeners. They were always pottering about (pun intended) in the front garden, ensuring the entire street benefited from their ace pruning skills. Subtle.

Despite the subliminal messaging, for the first two years of home ownership we neglected our garden. In an act of pure defiance, we watched the front lawn die and the hedges grow to touch the roads edge. My partner dabbled in veggies and we planted (without success) a couple of new shrubs on our dusty plain. Our garden and our neighbours waited. 

Then, the unexpected happened. It sprouted from an interest in sustainable living. The symptoms were obvious: We began scouring gardening books and watching gardening shows on the telly. We subscribed to the Gardening Australia Magazine. We talked constantly about our gardening plans, much to the delight of our parents and the eye-rolling of our peers. 

Finally it happened. We gardened. To my surprise, after one decent afternoon effort I was hooked. Since then we’ve bought, filled and eaten from three raised vegetable beds, planted four new fruit trees, started a succulent garden, nurtured a few wilting indoor plants back to health and even have a couple of chickens. We’re nowhere near finished, but our garden is better reflecting our style and we’re enjoying spending time together outside.

It hasn’t all been easy. In the last week I have given myself more splinters than could be counted on both hands. I have three large bruises on my left foot alone. I may be the only person to ever kill a succulent. But, I’m becoming used to the feel of grit in my shoes, dirt under my fingernails and the satisfied aching of a body that has spent the day working hard. 

More than the change in the garden has been the change in me. Working my land (however suburban) has become a source of peace. And while I’m enjoying watching our garden change, it’s this peace that has been the greatest reward. 

If there was one piece of advice I could give my fellow novice gardeners, it would be there’s no harm in trying. While you’ll mourn the loss of those who didn’t survive (in my case this includes a neglected thyme and displaced pomegranate), the rewards are well worth it. Two decades on from 'the mud pie incident', I’m thinking it might be time to make another.

What's your gardening conversion story? 

PS You'll be happy to know my parents are now also happy gardeners, after moving home and owning a more manageable garden, which is also more to their tastes. My dear mum was surprised to find that, when not faced with an overwhelmingly large garden for her resources, she did, in fact, enjoy (even... LOVE) gardening! They now have a lovely Australian cottage garden in the front yard, and some stunning (both in sight and scent) vines in the backyard. They're a great example of finding the right garden to meet their needs. 

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