They are positioned just outside her back door, which means they are also under her bathroom window, and so easy to water with a few buckets of shower water each day: one elderly bathtub, two ornamental pots, and what may have been an old copper (i.e. what women used to boil the washing in before the days of washing machines, not an elderly policeman, no offence meant officer).
The smallest container - which is still pretty big - is entirely filled with three kinds of thyme, because when you are talking thyme the most important thing is LOTS.
The next pot has the variety of silverbeet with red and yellow stems and small tender leaves that looks and tastes superb. The third pot has parsley (see comment on thyme), and the bathtub is planted out with rabbit-eared lettuces, the cut-and-come-again kind like cos, where you pick the leaves as you want them and the lettuce keeps growing until next spring, as long as you feed and water well. If you don't feed and water lettuce lavishly, the leaves will taste bitter, which is the revenge lettuce wreaks on anyone who neglects it.
What more do you need for summer veggies?
Actually one more bath tub would be good, planted with two zucchini plants - and cucumber, pumpkin and watermelon vines trailing out of it, and a small forest of tomatoes in the middle. That pretty much gives you all of summer's desires in a very small area, and for very little work, except maybe for sweet corn. And I forgot the basil. Though I suspect the gardener above is going to have tomatoes and basil added to her container collection fairly soon.
I am envious, because it is all so compact, placed on pavers so weeds won't invade. The plants get the extra heat reflected from the pavers, plus the stored warmth to keep them cosy at night. They grow twice as fast as those in the small paddock next door. The small garden is also easy to water - and hard to forget to water, as you can see the lettuce wilt each time you look out the back door or wash your hands in the bathroom.
But mostly, I am envious of how stylish it looks, as if just waiting for a local Van Gogh to make parsley and lettuces as immortal as sunflowers. I have never managed "stylish" in gardening or anything else.
The most ornamental veggie gardens I know are either magically individual, like the one above, or severely disciplined ones: rows of alternating green and red frilly lettuces, then a row of strictly straight bronze fennel, with every tomato bush staked so passers-by can admire the lusciousness of bright red fruit, yellow pear fruit, Black Krim or purple tomatoes. The corn stands so straight and tall you know they are only waiting for the order to march away.
I have never managed a neat garden, though I admire them. I have never produced an artistically individual one either. We do have couple of spare old bathtubs in the paddock that once had a couple of horses, but if I planted them I bet they'd look like they had escaped the local dump - apologies, refuse recycling centre, even though only 0.5 per cent is possibly recycled. Sorry, return to subject...
You probably already know if you can do either kind of garden. If you could colour in neatly at preschool (I failed colouring in) you can grow an enthusiastically neat garden that does not look at all anally retentive or obsessive, just lush and lovely.
If you can wear a scarf twisted casually or even intricately around your neck without looking as if a boa constrictor is trying to escape, you have the talent for an artistic garden. My scarves have to stay in two straight lines, as anything arranged just looks a mess. Every veggie garden I grow looks a mess too, which is only just, as it is a mess - never quite watered enough, weeded enough, staked enough, fed enough...
Except... it is enough. Somehow, every year, despite neglect, problematic surgery, drought, wallabies and possums who decide they need to avenge the loss of their loquat tree after 40 years of coexistence, we always have enough. (I have two words for you, possums: "powerful owls". The powerful owls have been missing the past two winters, but have returned to mate and boom along our end of the valley. And they love eating possums, especially the ones who make themselves visible by sitting out in a moonlit parsley patch.)
"Enough" means all the parsley we, and yes, the possums, want; enough basil to bung into the soup, stew or pizza whenever I remember (which isn't often enough) and ditto thyme; tomatoes to drool over even if it has been years since we had enough bounty to make tomato kasundi; enough apple cucumbers and zucchini to give the grandkids the experience of picking their own lunch. Just possibly, next year, there will be more rain, so we can put in a patch of sweet corn for them too. Every kid deserves a few years of racing just-picked, old-variety sweet corn to the pot of boiling water, then slathering it with butter AND salt and eating it - or, okay, if we must be health conscious 365 days of the year instead of 360, grilling it brushed with olive oil and crushed garlic, which actually is just as good, or better.
It doesn't matter which personality type you are: the kind that can make a perfectly symmetrical veggie garden, both beautiful and productive; a bohemian who turns a geriatric bathtub and a battered copper into art, or someone who can grow "enough". Plant now, and to heck with the drought. If you have enough water to wash with, you can grow "enough". The sheer act of growing - not to mention the harvest - brings delight.
This week I am:
- Yelling "hippeastrum!!!!" I planted three five years ago, and they have done nothing but produced a few vague leaves. To be fair, I did nothing to help them grow, and they are in a dry spot by the wall. But somehow, in the driest most neglected year of all, one of them has bloomed in the biggest, reddest, most flagrant flowers you have ever seen, right by the front door. Until the wallaby eats it, or the possum, but we have had it for almost a fortnight already. It is a stunner.
- Glad that the rain may keep the trees going for another fortnight or so. And once it has rained once, you can believe it might just do it again...
- Trying to get up the courage to tell Bryan that a box-load of plants I ordered an optimistic six months ago will arrive this week.
- Longing for sweet corn, which I won't grow but others locally will - but it is at least another month until any will be ready...
- Glad the thyme has survived the winter neglect. Thyme is tough. I'm also hoping the coffee bush, which has dried out far too many times in the last six months, somehow revives.
- Watching purple bottlebrush emerge all over the bush overnight, after only one afternoon of scattered rain.