5 December 2023

Taste the joys and bitter disappointments of a wanna-be veggie gardener

| Michele Tydd
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Radish on a plate next to a 50-cent piece

The first-born monster radish, just begging for a glam photo. Photo: Michele Tydd.

As the middle of the veggie garden season approaches, zealous gardeners start sending friends and family pics of suspiciously large veggies.

I was always on the receiving end because I’d thrown in the trowel years ago after many failed attempts to produce anything close to edible … until my 12-year-old neighbour and gardener extraordinaire Jack rekindled the passion.

Our first move, he said, was to make a list and head to Bunnings. We did that about 12 times until my garage walls were lined with gardening tools, from pitchforks to pointy shovels, as well as bags of soil, compost, manure, seeds and a new garden hose.

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Quietly, I tallied up the receipts and realised I could have invested the money in a return ticket to Italy for a Mediterranean holiday, but those defeatist thoughts disappeared when just weeks later I held the first-born radish in my grimy hands.

Plump and toffee red, it begged “photograph me” and I gleefully obliged. The image then winged its way to a UK friend who keeps sending me pics of her son’s prize-winning pumpkins.

Our field of potential gold measured only three metres by two metres. But size is irrelevant when the focus is quality rather than quantity – and a good pic to go with it.

When the snow peas and kale popped, it was yet another magical moment, and out came the phone again for another opportunity to irritate friends.

Man holding a giant pumpkin covering his face.

In comparison, the prize-winning UK pumpkin. Photo: Larry Pinkerton.

I’d position the latest produce next to itty-bitty items like buttons and toothpicks for maximum viewing impact.

Sick of the recipients’ lacklustre responses like, “Yeah nice” or “Wow” without the required exclamation mark, I started researching how to enter our produce into regional agricultural shows, where they could be more fully appreciated.

But then disaster struck.

What I used to think of as dainty white butterflies that flutter like aerial ballerinas, suddenly turned into evil-eyed devil creatures with a taste for McVeggies.

Within days, the once lush, green kale was unrecognisable — now just a gobbled down stem oozing yellowish-green slime.

Very skinny carrot next to a skinny pencil.

The carrots looked lush and green above the surface, but below was another story. Photo: Michele Tydd.

The next gut punch was the moment we realised we had forgotten to thin out the carrots, which by now were supposed to be fully grown.

Their luxuriant green tops were hiding the fact that below the surface the strangled crop sat a pinhead apart from each other leaving them spaghetti-thin and almost see-through.

The snow peas thankfully survived because every time I saw one of those hateful white butterflies approaching, I would fly down the steps like a madwoman flapping two thongs together as a potential deadly weapon.

The season is only halfway done but we have downed tools and phone cameras to grieve and regroup.

Any incoming veg-pics of bonny, bouncing, healthy veg produce will be promptly shoved in the digital compost bin.

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Jack Baldassari6:38 pm 03 Jan 24

That wannabe gardener is me!

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