I look around my garden right now and it makes me happy. Really happy.
There’s a certain smugness that comes with having half the produce aisle growing just outside your door. Lately I’ve found myself standing out there in the evenings, checking in on progress, feeling that smug happy feeling.
While I’m out there, sometimes I think about a blog I published three years ago – on November 3 2019.
I remember the utter frustration I felt at my garden at the time. We had moved to The Outpost just two months earlier. The garden was in its very early stages.
At the time I said:
“But starting a garden (again) takes so much time. There is so much effort and expense up front that takes months to even begin paying off. One of the goals of this blog is to be honest about this journey. If I’m doing that, I have to tell you: it’s beginning to frustrate me.”
I missed having a garden that was growing lots of stuff, and being able to find whatever we needed growing somewhere outside our window. That kind of variety comes with time. The new environment was causing me to struggle.
I wasn’t happy with the layout of the beds. The soils still needed work. A very dry summer had already begun setting in and the drought conditions meant learning some new gardening tricks.
But even then, I knew that putting in the hard yards over time would get me past that feeling eventually:
“It took me 2 and a half years of hard and constant work to get to that point. Looking through my old Instagrams, I’m reminded that while my first season had its successes, the thing I miss took two seasons to arrive at.“
We have arrived
Here we are, our fourth season in our garden. Over the pandemic, I spent my time in the garden. It calmed me during the uncertainty of the first lockdown. I’ve stuck to my mantra of ‘a little bit of work, whenever you can’, and the work has paid off.
The perennial herbs and flowers have sprung back to life stronger than ever. New plants have been discovered, added to the collection, planted out, and tended.
Seed banks of lettuce, coriander, dill, parsley, tomatoes, potatoes, annual flowers, rocket and pak choi have been established, so they are just there whenever we want them.
We have settled into seasonal rhythms and improved our own fitness to extend how much time we can spend in the garden. I’ve taken up yoga, it helps a lot.
We’ve broken tools; upgraded tools; decided on our favourites and then lost them somewhere. Hopefully they’ll turn up one day.
And we have reached the point I was waiting for three years ago:
“Probably the most frustrating thing for me is I’m ready for Year 3, but I have a Year 1 garden. My planning and seed collection is for Year 3, when beds are thriving and actually exist. But instead, I’m back at the starting line.”
Year 4 garden
It’s taken time, sweat, blood, and tears, but we’re here.
It’s not perfect by any means. The garden beds are still not complete, I am still competing with kikuyu grass. The paths have begun disintegrating and I need to make decisions about that soon.
We haven’t set up any formal irrigation or water collection for the garden. The last two years have been quite wet and we’re slightly more comfortable using some of our precious tank water now.
There are still three beds at the front, and – I’ve realised quite recently – three beds up the back to be added onto the existing garden. It could really do with a fence to keep the dogs off it. They do not respect the difference between a path and a bed. They seem to think garlic is a funny grass.
It’s not perfect or complete – it probably never will be. But this year, it finally makes me happy.
The part of this I could only imagine three years ago is how much more we have now than we had at the rental we moved from.
“Gardens take time. My garden at Waipu did not happen in one season, and this one won’t either. I’m in a position of massive privilege. I own land on which to build a massive garden and plant trees, then benefit from them for as long as I want to.”
The feijoas and olives are exploding into flower and the tops of the banana palms are getting difficult to reach.
And my stint working in a garden center has meant we also have a range of flowers I didn’t even know the names of three years ago. Post-lockdown markdowns, staff discounts, and new gardening friends meant I added a lot to the collection. But probably my favourite is the simple cornflower.
I didn’t know how much I loved cornflowers when I wrote that post. These days cornflowers feature as the lockscreen on my phone, as well as throughout the gardens.
There’s still time
Even though things have changed, some have not. The last paragraph of the post I wrote three years ago still holds true, and so I will use it again here:
“We still have many, many gardens to dig, create, and plant up. We have many, many years of adding compost to it for it to become truly fertile and productive. It will be so much better than my old garden, and so much bigger too. I just have to remind myself that it requires time, and that’s something I’m lucky enough to have.”