Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia


One of the essential virtues of any gardener would surely have to be patience. Plants take time to grow: a simple, singular truth.

I know this. I’ve been gardening for many years now, on skinny windowsills with barely enough room for a pigeon to perch, and on sunny balconies and some not-so-sunny balconies. I’ve gardened in the frost hardened clay of an English winter (potatoes worked a treat and helped break up the soil) and in fine, free-draining sand in Broken Hill (I wish I’d thought to plant carrots, they would have loved it). In every case, it took time for plants to establish.

This was the garden in England when I first arrived.

garden plan

It took three years to make it look like this…


…and this


So why am I fretting about the speed (or lack thereof) with which the garden in Sydney is progressing? I suspect it’s something to do with the absence of green stuff, the paucity of visible dirt and the preponderance of hard surfaces. There are granite pavers on the patio and the flowerbeds are built of brick; there’s a massive slab of sandstone wall topped by grey breezeblocks at the back and there are more bricks and fencing further down the side of the house. Not a single blade of grass anywhere.

So, even though they’re growing faster than we can eat them, I’m glad I planted lettuce. In less than a month they produced huge crisp heads. Just seeing something green when I look out of the window is worth it, even if those lettuce are going to seed already in the sweaty heat of a Sydney summer. The melons have sprouted with extraordinary speed too.

This was taken on the 9 Jan…


And this one a week later


Planting melon seeds in several different places – an entirely random act with no discernible method involved other than getting rid of a full packet of seeds – had unexpected benefits. I discovered where the sunny spots in the garden are.

Compare the melons I planted beside a (shady it turns out) wall on one side of the garden…


…with others in a pot, planted at exactly the same time


Given enough time, that magic trio of sunshine, water and good soil will do their work, no matter how bare the garden might seem at the moment, and at the risk of sounding like Polyanna, what a difference a day makes.

Especially a sunny one.

6 comments on “Patience

  1. Val Lord
    January 30, 2014

    Love it Deb. I am not a gardener. Never have been, but for a couple of months now I have been dreaming of the herb and veggie garden I would love to have when I return. May need to contact you for pointers!! Also mentioned to a friend that I would love a cottage style garden…we will see. In the meantime I will enjoy your planting! Thank you Deb x


    • debhuntinbrokenhill
      January 30, 2014

      Hi Val, you’ll have to get in touch when you come back to Australia and come for a visit, hopefully we’ll have a garden established by then! x


  2. nantubre
    January 30, 2014

    Oh Deb, such a gift of a green thumb! I am a gardener as well but this land I am on here is awful blue clay. All the top soil was scraped off before I bought it. Very difficult to grow anything here, but I have amended the soil and have managed to grow a few things. We are in our winter time and have cabbages and mustard greens growing now. In the spring, we will give raised beds a try. LOVE your gardens, previous and current!


  3. debhuntinbrokenhill
    January 30, 2014

    Very sweet of you Nan, it sometimes feels like I’ve got a green hammer instead of a green thumb – so many plants get smashed! You’re right to concentrate on soil, it doesn’t seem to matter how much food you put on if you haven’t got the soil right. Hope all that snow is melting now!


  4. monsoonwendy
    January 31, 2014

    Your gardens were a balm to my eyes Deb. All that gorgeous green!!! You reckon I could grow carrots here? May require a more sustained presence I guess. Hope you are reaching those targets. Looking forward to seeing you in a week!!!!!! MWAA, Wendy


  5. debhuntinbrokenhill
    February 1, 2014

    Thx Wendy, any green in the back garden in Sydney is rapidly being smothered by the grey of concrete dust – workmen are repairing a wall and wow they can make some mess! I’m out with the hose as soon as they leave (hope I’m not washing away the mortar!) Look forward to seeing you in a few days, hope you’re surviving the heat up in Broken HIll, you’ve had a run of over forty degree days I noticed x


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This entry was posted on January 30, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , , , .

I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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