When I was growing up we always had a vege garden. My dad was head gardener and he’d spend a lot of his free time toiling outside to produce masses of pumpkins and beans and glossy red tomatoes. I loved helping him, and by helping him I mean, only doing fun things: planting seeds in an already prepared garden bed, picking snow peas and eating more than went in my basket, watching new shoots break through wet earth… that kind of thing.
I never once considered the amount of time he must have spent preparing, watering and most dreadfully, weeding. Our garden in Austria is perhaps a third the size of my parents’ old garden. Following winter people emerged from their houses and immediately began grooming their gardens for the spring. I decided to wait a little… dumb plan. When we finally got to it, it was such an overgrown mess that in the end could only be remedied with a mechanical rotary hoe. We actually seriously considered burning it.
Still, in the end we were rewarded with a flat patch of beautiful dark earth. So I planted the first seeds. And then I went away for 2 weeks. And it rained every day I was gone. And it was a disaster. I mean, things were growing, and that was great. Not only did my radishes come up, and two of the pumpkins, so did a mess of tomatoes, 2 potatoes, the coriander that refused to grow last year, and a random cucumber in the compost. But along with all that came the weeds – masses of them. The ugliest, most stubborn weedy things I’ve ever met. The smallest hint of green above the ground saw me digging to uncover an epic root, and that was only the beginning. An activity I had thought might take me an hour or two had become a full time job.
It took me multiple weekends and after-work sessions to get the garden under control again. And now I give it the weekly go over, to swear at the weeds, to try and find the mother-root (because I know she’s in there… they’re all connected… they must be) and to map the growth process. And despite all the work, it feels worth it when I bite into a tart, crispy home-grown radish, see the snow peas poke their little fronds up, testing the air, and count the number of broccoli that appear against the number I actually planted… 3… where did the other 7 go??? I hope that our zucchini harvest isn’t quite as enormous as last year (83), and I hope that we get to try some silver beet before the snails get it all. Most of all I hope that the mint from my garden doesn’t go forth and try and conquer the entire world.
I love my little piece of earth. I love that I can grow things. I’m grateful to have grown up in a family that did such things, which kicked off my appreciation for it – even though weeds are the devil and when my back and knees are aching I don’t feel quite so enthusiastic. Hubby has given me a leave-pass which means I don’t have to adhere to the strict perfection of other people’s Austrian gardens. It’s neat-ish… it’s orderly… and it’s a little bit wild – it’s an Austrian-Australian garden. A little piece of heaven where I can go, and be outside, and let the day’s thoughts go… and curse the weeds.