Story telling from Australia
For every negative in this garden there’s a positive.
I’ve finally accepted that the only area suitable for vegetables in the back yard is a slim strip at the side of the house, barely a metre wide and about four metres long. That’s also where the heat exchanger for the air conditioning lives, which doesn’t offer ideal growing conditions.
Planting directly into the soil isn’t possible because there isn’t any. A thin layer of compacted sand and gravel sits on top of the concrete slab foundations.
But let’s look on the bright side. There’s enough space to squeeze in a few pots and still let the dog through (and the air conditioning engineer), so pots will have to do. I plant what we use most – salad ingredients.
Last year those pots produced a respectable crop of tomatoes and the cucumbers failed. This year the tomatoes died before they’d even set flower and the cucumbers can’t stop. I’ve harvested at least 18 from a single pot. They’re gradually succumbing to fungal disease yet the two plants are still gamely producing flowers.
I had high hopes for the espaliered fig this year, which is also tucked down that slim corridor. It produced 8 or 9 perfect figs in its first year, fattening undisturbed on the plant until they were ripe enough to pick.
The fig tree grew. It spread. It flourished. All of which took it too close to the air conditioning unit. Late winter blasts of cold air were replaced by an early summer roasting whenever we turned the air on, and the heat exchanger successfully transformed that slim corridor into a wind tunnel set to furnace. I noticed the damage and dragged the plant away, but not before it had lost a few leaves and young fruit.
This year birds noticed we had a fig tree, and I noticed the birds had noticed. I netted it. Aha! The remaining figs were mine. The tree gradually crept closer to the air conditioning unit so a couple of weeks ago I took the net off and shifted the pot. I got distracted, forgot to put the net back and we went away for the weekend.
All was not lost. The birds left a single unripe fig on the tree and I’ve been guarding it jealously ever since, breakfast bowl in hand, Greek yogurt at the ready.
When that fat fig blushed purple I reached for my bowl. I was too late. An army of ants had got there before me.
Still, half a fig is better than no fig at all, and it tasted delicious.
Then in the post, a surprise delivery of a pot of fig jam. I’ll tell you what was extraordinary about that next week…