Jun 4, 2012

A Green Thumb? Not Exactly . . .

By Helen Lacey

It’s a fairly long running joke in my family that I was blessed with a brown thumb. Basically, plants wither and perish while under my care . . . or lack thereof. I’m not the person to leave that precious maidenhair fern with while you go on holiday.  Or the relative you rely on to water your house plants while you’re away. That said, about a year ago my hubby and I had to section off a small part of the yard so that the electricity man could read the meter without being set upon by the Smiling Assassin (AKA my ten year old Tenterfield Terrier, Missy) He barely salvaged a trouser leg the first time he came into the yard, so we quickly built the fence to avoid seeing a grown man cry for the second time.

I then came up with the brilliant idea of having a vegetable patch in this space. My husband looked sceptical and did that one raised brow thing. I mentioned that we had plenty of horse manure and was sure it would become a resounding success. He wasn't convinced, but I finally talked him around with the promise to take extra special care of this new venture. A couple of old laundry tubs, plus two specially made corrugated iron garden beds later and I was in business. Or not. The seedlings went in. Row after row. Tomatoes, beans, lettuce, beetroot, and some sacrificial herbs (Named so because I’ve had several attempts at growing and cultivating these and have failed quite spectacularly each time). And I waited. And watered. And waited some more. The thing is, I’m not all that good at the waiting thing and found when there was little action happening, I forgot my promise and quickly began to neglect my new garden. The soil dried up, the promise of beans and beetroot faded and a couple of months later it was overgrown and full of weeds. I got the obligatory I told you so, and hung my head in shame. 

Months went by and I forgot about my plans to grow my own vegetables and herbs. Until my father-in-law arrived for a visit. Before he retired he was a nurseryman and when I fleetingly mentioned that I really needed to get my garden up and running again he took it upon himself to make it so. He started early one morning, churning the beds, added manure that had been in bags for months and which he insisted was gloriously good compost. And then we ventured out to purchase some seedlings. More beans, beetroot, tomatoes and lettuce . . . and basil, mint, parsley and chives. Back home, the soil was toiled again (not by me, I watched from an upstairs window) and the tiny seedlings were planted. He worked his green thumbed magic, added things to the soil and presto, months later my garden is a miracle of nature. I had promised said father-in-law I would not let the garden perish and so far things are looking good. I’ve been picking tomatoes and lettuce and using the herbs daily.

And what fun it has been. So, maybe the thumbs aren’t quite green yet . . . I'm still learning. But there is a definite improvement in their shade of brown.  So I applaud all the gardeners and green thumbs out there. Growing things and then eating them . . . who knew how satisfying it could be?


  1. Gardening is wonderful... when someone else does the work! Hubby thrilled the kids with growing capsicums this year. It's their fave vegetable!

  2. Hi Bec - yes, I was very happy that my father-in-law did the ground work - now I can reap the benefits of my lovely crop. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Helen, I loved your veggie garden story! In theory, I love the idea of a veggie patch. In practice... I have the black thumb of death where plants are concerned. Though, I'm sure the local possum population would be delighted with my efforts if I ever gave it a go. :-)

    So now I have to ask, do veggies straight from the garden taste better than those from the supermarket?

  4. Hi Michelle - yes, they definately taste better!The tomatoes are so full of flavour and I'm so looking forward to the beetroot and strawberries. I comiserate with your black thumb - alas, I have one also :)

  5. Helen, WTG on the vege patch!! I, too, was born minus a green thumb. I did have a glorious rose garden once for a short time. Planets must have been aligned or something.
    About a year ago I decided I wanted herb planters. Got the soil and seedlings and, wow, it really went well. For a time. Did I mention we have several families of bush turkeys in the park behind us?
    They still scratch around in those poor barren planters, but alas, no herbs for anyone anymore =/

  6. HI Robyn - LOL on the bush turkeys! Having roses sounds so lovely - but I can only imagine how they would fair under my care :)

  7. Oh, Helen, we must have been twins in a previous life! When we moved into our house 7 years ago I threatened to pull out all 72 of the triffid-like rose bushes. I only promised not to when my father-in-law vowed to get on a plane and tend to them as necessary. It's really rather mean of me as I get beautiful healthy plants, gorgeous blooms and lots of misdirected compliments. I know the roses would have been dead long ago if I'd been left to look after them, though.
    Love your beautiful vege patch!

  8. Hi Barb - so you're another rose grower like Robyn :) I daren't try anything hard like flowers. Herbs and lettuce don't need pruning, just eating!

  9. Helen, isn't it terrific to be harvesting stuff from your own garden? It's a marvellous feeling. I'm not spectacularly successful at growing veges but the rest of the garden doesn't do too badly. Years ago we started a garden from scratch and most (!) of the things we planted grew. It was lovely, years later, to enjoy the garden we created, and see the kids playing in the little nooks and crannies.

    I hope your garden keeps producing for a one time to come.

  10. Hi Annie - yes, it's great to crop and eat :)

  11. Helen, I'm an indifferent garden too - terrible given my dad was a real green thumb and his mother grew flowers to sell at market!

    but when I do get it right and actually manage to keep watering and weeding and pampering the plants, harvesting those home-grown vegetables to eat is a real thrill!

    Keep up the good work!

  12. Hi Sharon - how lucky you are to have green thumbness in your genes :) I agree about the thrill of eating home grown veg.

  13. Helen, your gardens look so lush and delicious now! I'm hit and miss with vegie patches. The vegies that do the best are usually the ones that choose the spot themselves, like the pumpkins that come up through the compost. Delicious!