Confessions of a gardening ninny

In this first, exclusive N8N column, Judy McDonald comes clean about her organic garden. Which is, by the way, an inspiration.  Welcome aboard Judy!

Judy, with daughter Clare, at the produce table

I’ve had an organic back yard for over 30 years. But hang on, before you get the impression I’m an earth goddess who grows giant cabbages and bathes in organic peach juice, let me disillusion you: the garden is organic because I’m a slob, and because I have a healthy paranoia about the virtues of agricultural chemicals. Consequently, what I grow tends to be what survives despite my best efforts – and some of them have been doozies.

This is why Annette and Iris asked me to write a column. It’s for all those of us who regularly get it wrong but blunder on regardless because we like our back gardens and cherish the forlorn hope that one day we might just get it right (or at least righter than it is at the moment…)

At the moment, I am surveying a line of nicely blight-riddled tomatoes. They were doing superbly until it began to rain – they were up to a metre high and covered in promising-looking green tomatoes. Disaster has struck, as it often does, over the last three weeks of downpour, and I am frantically removing the sickest-looking bits and hoping for even half a day of fine weather when I can try some kind of futile organic remedy. My neighbour, who grows brilliant tomatoes, said “Oh, what does blight look like?” At least I was able to provide a biology lesson.

What I really can grow is raspberries. This is because they are weeds, with needles attached. But I can forgive them that because they happily produce kilograms of raspberries every year which allow me to snigger heartily at the sad-looking specimens in the shops, retailing at $5 for 250g. Picking them is a painful experience, but the rate of pay is pretty good at that rate, and the raspberry jam, raspberry cordial (anyone remember Anne of Green Gables?), raspberry sauce and raspberry vinegar (yum, makes magnificent vinaigrette) are worth fighting the spikes, the convolvulus and the wasps for.

That brings me to another issue. It’s so distressing reading those everlasting magazine articles about wonderful people (usually living in exceptionally posh houses with exciting careers and model children) who also have wonderful, weed-free, organic gardens yielding enormous quantities of perfect produce. Huh? Everyone I know with an organic garden has really healthy organic weeds as well and generally our gardens look like a bit of a tip. In my case, I have thriving convolvulus, oxalis and redroot. All of which are spectacularly resistant to my attempts to dispose of them. In desperation I’m resorting to pulling off the visible bits in the hope that after long enough they will give up the struggle because they can’t photosynthesise any more. As far as I can tell, they haven’t read that part of plant biology 101, and just keep on sending up new shoots.

So, I think we need a support group for organic nitwits. All hints gratefully received. We can commiserate over our latest failed experiments and occasionally share our raspberries, carrots, courgettes, or whatever else has actually inexplicably survived this season.

  • Judy runs possibly Hamilton’s only produce table, outside her house on Claude St.  Check it out if you’re going past.   Watch this space for an upcoming column all about this project. 
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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

4 thoughts on “Confessions of a gardening ninny

  • January 9, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Judy from another Judy, very interesting reading, sorry about the tomatoes. Do you happen to sell your raspberry canes as I have been looking for organic canes and maybe you wouldn’t mind helping out. I have an organic property here at Gordonton and I also refer to my asparagus as growing amongst the “Organic weeds and grasses”!
    Keep up the good work must visit your produce table sometime, Judy C

    • January 9, 2012 at 6:40 pm

      Hi Judy C,

      Thanks for your comment, and you are most welcome to have some raspberry canes, for nothing. They grow in the path, in the potato patch, and almost anywhere else they can think of, so you’d be doing me a favour by taking some away!


      • January 10, 2012 at 9:56 am

        Oooh, us too, us too! We’d love some raspberry canes!

  • January 16, 2012 at 9:29 am

    We too blunder our way through organic gardening. The garden fluctuates between tidy and producing food (when the weather’s been fine and we’ve had free time to garden) to full of weeds and mud (when it’s been warm and wet, much like now….). I would love to be part of a support group and trade tips etc.

    And yes, I do remember well the raspberry cordial incident, it’s a pity Anne didn’t try any herself and realise it was wine.



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