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Surprise potato

The accidental gardener

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Simon Webster cottons on to a new way of gardening – expect the unexpected – at Plot Farm. 

Just harvested some potatoes. I can’t claim there are a significant number of them, or that they would win any prizes at the local agricultural show, but what they do have going for them is that they were a surprise. And you can’t beat a surprise potato.

To be honest, shock is usually the overriding reaction here on Plot Farm when I produce anything edible at all. And Mrs Plot is generally the most astonished of everyone.

“Wow!” she’ll say, as if she’s talking to a four-year- old who’s come home with a drawing from preschool. “That’s really wonderful, darling! What is it?”

“It’s a cucumber,” I’ll say. “It’s just a bit… stunted.”

“Well, I don’t care if it’s unusual looking,” Mrs Plot will say. “I think you’re very clever. Now let’s make ourselves a jolly little salad.”

Can’t wait to see her face when I walk in with six potatoes!

I really was not expecting to find them. There I was, sledgehammer in hand, all set to decommission a vegie bed as part of the Plot Farm Back to Basics program, in which our onerous gardening commitments are being whittled down until we are left with only what is manageable (which I suspect will be nothing more than a pot of parsley, and I’m not entirely convinced about my ability to manage that).

But before the sledgehammer dealt its fatal blow, there were certain things that needed to be said. Like many gardeners, I have special relationships with my vegetable beds, and I thought it would only be right to say a few
words about all the pleasure and nutrition that this one had provided our family over the years. So, I rested a foot on the timber frame, and prepared to list the many wonderful crops that had come out of this humble little patch of dirt.

Couldn’t think of any. But it didn’t matter, because as soon as I rested elbow on knee (in think-harder pose), the whole thing collapsed: sleepers crumbled into dust, and the newly liberated dirt spread itself like a squashed sandcastle, except with potatoes dotted through it.

“The chip butties are on me!” I shouted, as I gathered them up and put them in a bucket, on top of the ginger and garlic that I’d collected from the other beds that I’d just decommissioned with the slightest touch.

There might be something in this method.

1. Build vegetable beds, shonkily, with completely inappropriate timbers.

2. Plant a wide variety of crops and mismanage them for several years.

3. Destroy beds with ease, and harvest assorted crops, allowing timber to rot into humus that can be the basis of the next vegetable bed.

The technique fits in nicely with my accidental gardening philosophy, which basically involves only ever expecting the totally unexpected.

After a while, you learn to be flexible with your meal planning. Tonight we’ll be having garlic and ginger sautéed potatoes, accompanied by rocket from the rhubarb patch, rhubarb from the kale patch, and chicken from the duck pond. Isn’t nature wonderful… 


For more of Simon’s hilarious antics, read Losing the Plot in each issue of OG.