Scary stories from a lovely place
I really love to garden. There’s something special about being outside under the sunshine, getting dirty, feeling all kinds of different surfaces and textures, discovering worms and beetles busy living their lives just below the top soil and yielding a crop of edible or beautiful delights. It’s also frustrating and cathartic in the way that is good for the soul. Solo gardening is lovely, sharing it with others is magical.
I loved my little garden at our house in Johannesburg. The backyard was small and entirely concretised, except for a patch of grass about 2m x 1m, which we extended. When we were digging up the grass and concrete we were amazed by the sad state of the soil in our little garden. It was literally full of trash. Cigarette butts, condom wrappers, bottle tops, broken crockery and glass, plastic bags and bits of metal were rife even deep down into the soil. When Stephen bought the house it needed a lot of love and attention. I didn’t think the neglect would have extended even to under the ground, but it did.
After I moved in we arranged planter boxes that Stephen made out of scrap wood and barrells and I nailed holes in every bucket shaped thing I could find. There was good sun and moisture, but we tried to squeeze too much life into that little gardening space.
We planted beetroot, sugar snap peas, tomatoes, onions, brussell sprouts, carrots, leeks, lettuce, basil, thyme, mint, coriander and parsley. The tomatoes and the mint flourished wildly. The beetroots grew high and we enjoyed their leaves, but the action under the ground was less impressive. Nothing else made it. Despite this disappointment, two other plants made it all worthwhile. I grew a holly bush and a delicate little miniature plum that blossomed in Spring in a delightful way.
Here at Woonona things have been a little slower to get going. Our rented house has a small garden, which was waist high with weeds. But as the months have ticked by I’ve felt increasingly uncomfortable for ‘my’ garden to be in such a state of disorder.
So, a few months ago we borrowed some gardening tools and ripped out the weeds and tried to care for the soil. It took a whole weekend. As in Brixton, the soil here was full of crap. Chip packets, balloons and ubiquitous plastic bags marred otherwise healthy looking soil.
I didn’t want to spend any money on the garden so my lovely Aunt gifted us a bay leaf tree, Camellia bush and lots of Agapantha’s. It took me a while to get these into the ground, but one day while Oisín was sleeping, Silas and I trudged out into the shade with our trowel and a serving spoon from the kitchen. Silas kept wanting to sit in the holes after I had dug them, but eventually we got everything planted.
This wasn’t enough. I still really wanted to be able to grow something that we could use in the kitchen. A lovely friend gave us a heap of great pots and some seeds. And I stole lots of strawberry plants, chives, parsley and mint from my parents garden. These are all living in pots alongside the house, which gets some sun, so they’ll have a bit of a chance.
Gardening is now forming part of the daily grind with my little gang. Silas likes to wield the hose. Oisín enjoys sampling the dirt and rocks. In between these hazards I get to do a bit of weeding and maybe some replanting. But we’re outside with the birds and the chilly breeze, and we’re enjoying some minor fruits of our sporadic labour.