Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Old Ways Were Best

By Roger Findlay

I have come to the conclusion that the best garden produce is grown using traditional methods much the same as when I was a boy.

At that time garden centres didn’t exist. Consequently the gardener had no option but to make do with what was available. Soot, ashes, manure and compost were the main ingredients but I also remember blood and bone, lime and Epsom salts.

On the day that the Shire horses delivered the beer to the Off Licence it was my job to be there with a large dustpan to collect the droppings. Other kids were on the same mission and there were fights over being the rightful poo owner!

My father didn’t eat many types of vegetable and he preferred growing flowers. He was the Secretary of the Gas Board flower and vegetable show for many years.

Vegetables – the biggest and best I’ve ever seen. Polished onions, carrots bunched and tied with ribbons, Savoy cabbages crinkled like a ladies perm and kohlrabi looking like sputniks.

First prize! (Arthur Bowman – for the umpteenth time.) My Dad reckoned he cheated: “Bought them at the shop”, he said.

Out here in Gerogery West I am still trying to emulate Arthur. His massive hands were soiled and cracked and his shoulders wide from turning sods of earth. He marked trenches with string lines before adding the secret ingredients. No time for a cup of tea; he was dreaming of producing the finest cabbage in the land and receiving the glittering trophy.

What drives a man to achieve when there are so many pit-falls? It’s a challenge where you contend with insects, grubs, birds, rabbits, pets, weather, soil deficiencies and poor advice.

I tend to learn as I go remembering that the soil type and conditions are far different to those of Europe. My success rate is better than 60% with the failures mainly being tomatoes. I read Grass Roots & organic gardening magazines but realise there’s no guarantee.

I don’t like spending money and for this reason I like to use whatever I have access to. Apart from white oil and blood and bone I have most other things available at no charge.

Hoeing, raking, digging and pruning contribute to good health as does the produce that I’m presenting to my dear wife for the kitchen table. It’s a good life (sometimes.)