To grow things, you have to put them in the ground

There are beans on my bedside table.

No cause for alarm. I put them there. Just as I put the carrots in the glove box, the capsicum in the soap dish and the tomatoes in my boots.

My wife dropped the turnips in the fruit bowl, where they were hidden from view for three years.

Before you start removing all the sharp implements I should add that we are, I suspect, not alone. This is happening in homes all over the civilised world; even yours.

It’s not exactly carrots and beans and capsicum; it’s the seeds — the base material from which the vegetables are supposed to grow — if you stick ’em in the ground, that is.

But do you? Does anyone? These are tricky times, and the only thing that would grow in my garden at the moment is water lilies, assuming I could stop them floating out the gate.

But even when the planets all align to favour the earnest gardener, and the soil is sweet and friable and fecund as a Queensland rabbit, there is still one unavoidable rule that must be obeyed if you want to grow stuff.

You absolutely have to put it in the ground!

I’m reminded of Mr Jeremiah Colman who, nearly 200 years ago, created an empire on the sale of mustard. He is reputed to have said, memorably: “It’s not the mustard people eat that makes me rich; it’s the mustard they put on the side of their plate.”

In a way, it’s the same with vegetable seeds. It’s not the ones I plant that makes the seed companies rich; it’s the ones I dream of planting. It’s the vision I have of a vegetable garden like a highly organised and obedient jungle, dripping fruit from vines, carrots bursting out of the soil, the air alive with the buzz of benevolent bees, smelling of ripening tomatoes and sweet earth, and the ground dangerous with hidden watermelons the size of car tyres.

But my garden’s not like that. My garden is the more common kind of jungle, very tropical in its nature. People who go in there may not be seen again. They’re digested. So are their boots and machetes. My weeds have teeth. The insects have a blood lust that is never satisfied.

The only significant item missing from my vegetable garden is a vegetable.

Maybe this time it will be different. This year I am not going to sow any of the seeds I have left over from 2001, in the hope that maybe some of them will germinate. They never do.

I’ve bought new ones; so far I have pumpkins (two varieties), beans, tomatoes, silver beet, carrots, spinach, capsicum, eggplant, cucumber, celery, lettuce (three kinds) and rhubarb.

Given that there’s somewhere in the region of 200 seeds in the carrot packet, and probably 30 in each of the pumpkin packets, I should be eating like a king in a few months, or at the very least like the bandicoots that usually dine out on the fruits of my labour.

I shall need a couple of hectares, of course, if I’m going to get it all in the ground, which will mean ploughing under next-door’s ornamental trees. My vegetable patch just isn’t big enough to cope.

Anyway, it’s raining at the moment, and even when the floods go down it will be a couple of weeks before I can actually get anything in the ground, so maybe I won’t worry too much yet.

I told my wife.

“At this rate the only place any vegetables are going to grow is in the dirt in the turn-ups of my gardening trousers,” laughed I.

“There isn’t any dirt in your trouser turn-ups, because you never go in the garden,” deadpanned she.

I haven’t got any onions. I ought to have a few onions…