Dear Aunt Jackie,
Three colonels, two majors and a small regiment have diagnosed caterpillars on my cabbages. I assume a small nuclear device would vaporise them?
KJU, North Korea.
You are correct. However spray of flour and water would also be effective, and possibly remain undetected by UN monitors.
Dear Aunt Jackie,
I am concerned that the long swathe of parliamentary lawn might be seen as an advertisement for a party of the opposition. Is there any way to change its colour?
Anonymous, The Lodge, Canberra
Sadly Kentucky Blue Grass does not quite live up to its name – the blue tinge is visible only at a distance. Kangaroo grass turns flagrant red but only in the autumn. Planting out the Parliament House lawn to create the Australian flag in blue, red and white salvias, or white alyssum, blue lobelias and red nasturtiums would be possible. Also tacky.
Personally, I'd get rid of the grass entirely and put in native everlastings which would be nicely symbolic on many levels, and need less work and water. Or apple trees, to set an example of fruitfulness and productivity.
Dear Aunt Jackie
I am worried about leeks.
DT, New York
Leeks are easy. Feed them incredibly well, weekly not weakly, mulch and water, and your leeks will grow fat. Or try perennial leeks, which put out even more baby leeks every year. You will soon be over-run with leeks.
PS It just occurred to me that your spell checker may have stumbled on the spelling of 'leeks'. In which case ignore the advice above.
Dear Aunt Jackie,
My neighbours make it impossible to sleep, yelling 'come on you beauty!' and other epithets, cheering, stomping, and occasionally weeping. I have tried tactful hints and distractions: urinating on their ceiling, dancing in gumboots on their roof at 2 am, and eating every rose bud, but the disturbance has continued all winter. What else can I try?
O. Possum, Kambah
Dear O. Possum,
Don't worry, football season is over. Hope you enjoy cricket, Jackie
Dear Aunt Jackie,
Is there a herbal spell to make me totally irresistible to voters?
Please don't mention my name in the column.
Dear Please Don't Mention My Name in the Column,
Yes, there is a medieval spell involving bathing by candlelight in well water strewn with rose petals and witch-hazel leaves. Am happy to give more details if you can provide an address for the photographer. Good luck in the election, Jackie
Ps. It is only effective till midnight, but that may be all you need.
This week I am:
Planting! Finally. I dashed out for ten minutes to plant the spring onions and was still there two and half hours later.
This is the time for veg that are not just frost resistant, in case we get another freeze, but which won't dash to seed if we get a hot spell and then a cold snap followed by more heat. In other words, not beetroot, celery or European cabbages – they spring to seed too easily, and don't put in tomatoes, corn, melons, pumpkin etc yet unless it's by a hot sunny wall or concrete path that will both reflect heat and radiate it to protect the plants on cold nights. One gardener I know concreted half his garden, so he could get early tomatoes. It works. It's also horribly ugly. A small glasshouse – or plastic tunnel – is more discreet. A vast Victorian wrought iron glasshouse would be even better, if I had a spare $100,000 and felt deeply self-indulgent.
Yesterday I planted those spring onion seedlings, red Cos lettuce seedlings, wom bok seedlings, parsley seedlings and some arrowroot roots within the enclosed garden – it used to grow outside but the wallabies ate the tops and the wombats dug up the roots.
Today was for seed potatoes, one red and one deep purple variety; two kinds of radish, one fast-growing, small and red and white, the other with a white skin and spectacular red interior.
Also 'Little Finger' carrots – a fast-growing, small variety that should be ready for the kids to pull and eat after a quick wash, by Christmas (washing the carrots I mean, not the kids, except their hands).
I also planted peas, a mildew-resistant variety that shod withstand summer's heat. You never know with spring-planted peas. If we have a cool or late summer – and the wallabies don't get them – we shod get a good long crop. If it's a fast hot summer it'll be a fast, short crop. But either way, freshly picked peas are possibly the greatest delight of any garden. Home-grown asparagus, fragrant tomatoes … I'd still rather have a bowl of freshly picked peas, lightly cooked with a few of their pods.
Nothing else – not butter. Just peas and more peas, and then another bowlful. And just maybe we will have them for Christmas.
This is also the week for:
- the first purple asparagus spear! They really are sweeter than the green, so tender they can be crunched raw;
- reminding myself that some varieties of avocado flower so abundantly that the leaves droop and go yellow and they look like they may be dying – I have reminded myself of this every spring for forty years … and still worry;
- making lime cordial with the last of the winter Tahitian limes, just in time for the Eureka lemon crop;
- Imagining what the seeds in all those packets will look like when they've become round orange eggplant; fat-fleshed long red capsicum; small, incredibly sweet, yellow-skinned watermelons; warty yellow zucchini and round and striped zucchini too (which is possibly ten times as many zucchini as we need, but luckily the chooks enjoy zucchini too); and
- counting blueberries! The bush I put in this winter bloomed, set fruit and now is covered with them. Another fortnight and we should be eating them.