President's Message May 2019

Garden hopes 

At this time of the year I look at my vegetable garden with sadness and think of the successes or the disasters with a view to deciding what to bother with next year.

Usually I have self-seeded silver beet, but this year the possums managed to scale the fence around the vegetable bed. They have eaten all of our silver beet, and we did not get one strawberry nor any unbitten tomatoes. They have even discovered, to my amazement, that rhubarb leaves are edible. I always thought that rhubarb leaves were poisonous, but it seems that they may be for us but not for possums because their numbers have not declined. At least our potatoes were a success and our runner beans.

Another problem this year is the drought. We do water the vegetables but it is not as good as a soaking rain. Several years of drought plus infestations of corbie and curl grubs plus rabbits and wallabies mean that we have large, absolutely bare patches of dirt. Even dandelions and thistles do not seem to have survived.

The shrubbery around the house has also been severely affected. Plants under stress are very easy pickings. Rabbits and wallabies are eating native plants they have never touched before. The wallaby has even taken a liking to grevillea and fuchsia flowers.

Tasmania was much wetter when we moved to Acton 40 years ago, and we had some interesting small native plants in my garden, white and pink heaths, daniellas, blue sun orchids, running postman, bearded and other greenhood orchids and many more. Of about 20 native small plants, I think we have only about half a dozen left. In the past two years even banksia marginatas, a local Tasmanian small coastal tree, have given up.

The garden is still a delight and allows me to accept that the seasons come and go forever without regard for my hopes and expectations. Despite the set backs and at times screaming frustration I am addicted to gardening and nurseries, which is not a bad thing considering the alternative addictions.

We have improved the fencing around the vegetables and prepared the beds for next year. I will plant pinkeyes; my runner beans will come up, and I will protect the bases with chicken wire. I will fertilise the rhubarb and plant pumpkins and zucchinis and hope for the best. I do not have the heart for any strawberries but may succumb to tomato plants. As an amateur gardener my hope springs eternal that next year I will get a truly bumper crop without disappointment despite all past evidence to the contrary.

One thing I am quite sure will not be a disappointment is my enjoyment of U3A courses in this the second term of 2019.

Jocelyn  Head

President, U3A Clarence