MY LOVE affair with gardening goes back a long way. One of my earliest memories as a pre-schooler is of being in the yard next door on a summer day. Standing in the cool shade under a canopy of grapevine leaves with filtered sunlight breaking through here and there. Next to me were towering plants that seemed alive as they dwarfed my young child frame. There was the sound and sight of birds, and another sight and sound that seems to excite most young children: that of running water. In this case, the rhythmic pulse of water coming from one of those old type garden sprinklers that were common in the 1960s.
Moving on from experience described above, gardens became a kind of adventure playground and food festival at the same time. Grazing on tomatoes from plants that were taller than me, carrots and assorted fruit became a way of life. To this day, the smell of tomato plant foliage in midsummer is one of the most desirable and intoxicating scents in my life. Legal and wholesome chroming.
Another fascination of gardens that has never faded or diminished for me is seeing the soil beginning to crack, heralding the imminent bursting forth of the seeds that were buried on that spot. Some years ago, I penned the words: 'I learned about seeds when I was quite young, and the joy has only increased. So many reasons to follow the seasons, life is a veg edible feast'.
When I left home, I decided to replicate the yard of my childhood, both at rental properties and on the land where I eventually built a house. Partly for the food and sense of wellbeing that comes with being in a garden, and partly to try and retain that freshness of childhood being that I never wanted to leave behind. I was very fortunate to have been introduced to real food from its natural source in its due season from my earliest days. It should be rated as a basic and essential human right.
Over the last 30 years, my greatest delight has been in seeing a procession of young children going through the same ritual of wonder and discovery as they eat their way around my yard. Toddlers biting berries directly from the plants, fruit juice running down their faces and arms. Some of them now have their own children and the tradition of home-grown food continues.
It's not hard to get young children actively engaged. They love following their parents around and doing what they are doing. Throw in the ingredients of dirt, water and gratified taste buds, and not much persuasion is required. Even if they lose interest for a while, as is the case with some children who learn a musical instrument and then stop playing, the foundations have been laid for a return later in life.
This is the first of a gardening column by John Coldebella based on what’s happening in his own back yard.