Story telling from Australia
The hymn We Shall Overcome has been running through my head today, perhaps because I’ve been invited to speak at a church group tonight, but then again, there’s no denying the refrain popped into my head when I thought about gardening.
Renewed enthusiasm and optimism are needed to develop this shady back yard. I can’t is such a defeatist sentence. As Lyn French said, “Can’t is a coward, can is a King.” And she’s right. There’s no gardening fairy with a magic wand who will suddenly appear, clear the beds of fallen leaves and sweep away the hiding places where slugs love to lurk; there’s only me, and I can do it.
Even ‘I can try’ is a more positive attitude. ‘I can’t’ may as well hang up her gardening gloves and let the slugs loose. Standing at the back door surveying layers of soggy leaves and hoping the curly kale will grow when it hasn’t been given the slightest encouragement or protection is not a positive approach.
So I cleared the leaves; I spread cow manure and mushroom compost; I sprinkled pellets that will discourage the slugs; I erected barriers so Maggie won’t climb into the beds to eat the new soil or chew on the pellets, and I planted some shade-loving vegetables.
It’s also finally time to admit that I couldn’t have picked a worse spot to plant the grapefruit – at the end of wind tunnel against a chilly south-facing wall (we’re in the southern hemisphere for anyone wondering) – so it’s time to admit the tree needs help. Standing at the back door rueing the sight of its stunted growth and yellowing leaves won’t help.
You can afford to neglect a plant that has good soil and plenty of sunshine, in a protected spot with ideal growing conditions. It will grow. It will grow even better if you feed it and take care of it.
But in the wrong environment that plant has no chance of thriving unless it gets regular attention and extra help, including good soil, regular feeding and protection from pests. The odds are stacked against my grapefruit so it will need all the help it can get. That means more manure, compost, lime, potash and mulch, as well as regular watering.
It may not be sufficient of course, and if it doesn’t work I’ll have to consider uprooting the tree and replanting it elsewhere. It could take years to get over the shock, its growth will be hampered originally but hopefully, in the long run, it will benefit.
We’re all connected on this beautiful planet and we all – people, plants and animals – get affected by our environment. We can choose to do something to protect and improve that environment, or we can neglect it.
So I’m not done yet. I’m not giving up on this back yard, or that grapefruit tree, and when I next get the chance to get out into the garden I’ll be doing everything I can to help it along.
Here endeth the lesson.
I’m off to talk to a Women’s Fellowship group at the Uniting Church in Dapto.