By Nicola Kawana
I suppose spring is technically the marker of a new year in the garden, as life in the soil begins to shake off it’s winter coat. But as January rolls around I start to compile a list of things I can or would like to do better in my garden this year. Inspired by what didn’t work, what I didn’t quite get around to and simply new things I’d like to explore. Exactly like the list many will have made for themselves and just as tricky to adhere to.
Full summer is a good time to see what didn’t quite work out as planned. My courgettes are covered in powdery mildew, which it is sharing with the tomatoes, my inconsistent watering skills has meant that some seedlings just didn’t get off to the well hydrated start they deserved. The nitrogen levels in the soil around the beetroot are clearly too high, as they are all leaf and little root. I’m not even sure what happened to the broad beans, I blame a new variety I planted, as these bumble bee magnets usually thrive despite neglect. But secretly I know I am the one to blame as they were planted hastily in the wrong place.
I could go on but the the list leaves me feeling guilt ridden and deflated. However just as many begin the new year propelled by what didn’t quite work, I am determined to set a new list for the new year of how, in an ideal world, I would like my gardener self to be.
This long weekend I began by a good old fashioned decluttering. I discovered capsicums under the overgrown arugula that I’d forgotten I had planted, tiny and gasping for sun but still alive. Broad beans pushed to the ground by an overplanted combo of courgette, tomatoes and corn. Kale and red cabbages who I knew just weren’t gonna pull through, so out they went with the self seeded potatoes, spent silverbeet, carrots that had flowered and dropped their seed, half the jerusalum artichoke forest and a great deal of invasive oregano.
So, now I can see what I’m dealing with. The bits that did work, the adventurous beans, the basil and rocket happily sharing a space next to the raspberry which seems finally to have defended itself from an attack of the Bronze beetle. My corn is shaping up nicely, I’m still eating strawberries daily and the baby carrots seem to like the spot I chose specially for them. Clearing out the old has given breathing space to what remains, I can see now that I was just putting more stuff in without taking stuff out and it all just got a bit much. While ticking along nicely, my wee vege patch was struggling to thrive. Oh how tending a garden can be a metaphor for life. I’ve always loved how nature can reflect our own new beginnings and the natural cycles of life. With a little care and nurture we can always start again and grow something new. But for now I’m biffing out that which no longer serves my garden.
And, in the words of American poet and philosopher, Henry David Thoreau… “our life is frittered away by the detail…simplify, simplify”. And there we have it, a starting point for a new year.