I’m the sort of person who always has a plan F. While it doesn’t represent my three previous failed attempts or the well-raked but now choko-free planting site, the following gallery of photos showing my recent efforts to grow a choko vine on my back fence, gives a hint why.
You might ask “Why the mirror? Do chokos favour selfies? Are they the body builders of the plant world, only able to bulk up while constantly checking their form?”. A good question. You might also ask “Why try to grow the choko in the first place, the vegetable equivalent of the Milk Arrowroot biscuit, a food you will only eat when the pantry is otherwise bare?” but let’s not go there now.
My garden gleams with reflected light in hopes that a sudden glimpse of a rival will put the wind up your peckish but flighty brush turkey and make him head for the hills. I fell for this urban myth, and heavy rubbish day presented any number of opportunities to add a sparkle to my vegetable beds.
While a looking glass in the okra patch is aesthetically pleasing, the sad end to to my months of steadfast efforts to grow a choko vine suggests that mirrors may fall into the same category as companion planting – a charming idea lightly resting on a flimsy foundation of optimism and anecdotal evidence.
So I have undertaken my mission of establishing a sweet potato patch with a certain sense of doom. Yes, it is true that with absolutely no attention from me, over summer last year some long-neglected tuber produced a morass of sweet potato vines so resilient that it became my 2014 nominee for “plant most likely to survive the zombie apocalypse“.
But that was then and this is now. Yesterday I saw not one, not two, but four baby brush turkeys in the yard during one 10 minute period. If the undead favour brush turkey brains, the zombie apocalypse is starting to seem like a more and more appealing prospect.
There’s a hint of Hammer Horror about sweet potato slips, enhanced, I think, by the monster themed birthday candles I used to keep the tubers suspended in glasses of water. Yet surprisingly, in the months of watchful waiting, there was only one horror movie moment. A classic: Empty-house-Terrifying-things-hidden-in-enclosed-spaces-Heart-in-Mouth – When Sweet Potato Tubers Go Bad. There was a potential splatter event as I emptied the gut-churning water into the sink. But fortunately, there were survivors.
So, time to plant out the sweet potato slips. Needless to say, I won’t be relying on Alice nipping through the looking glass to rescue my sweet potatoes.
Instead, I’m pinning my hopes on a trampoline. It has been a much loved trampoline. But when you find lichen growing on on your backyard play equipment it’s often a sign that it’s time for it to move on to the next phase of its lifecycle. In this case, in the fiscally constrained post-Christmas period, as low-rent vegetable exclusion netting.
Yes, that does mean that the kids can no longer leap and bound with gay abandon knowing that the nets around the tramp will catch them. They now have the “tough love” type of trampoline we had in the 70s and 80s where the threat of a broken leg or fractured spine was ever-present. But sometimes it comes down to a choice between securing the future of your offspring and your root vegetables.
So yesterday, in the foggy early morning, I set out to the bottom of the garden with everything prepared. Commemorative real ale glass full of rooted sweet potato slips. Length of lichen-encrusted trampoline netting. Bucket full of broken terracotta pots, previously used to secure a now-partially composted Christmas tree. And hope. And back in the kitchen, a whole bunch of extra sweet potato slips. Because when hope fades, there’s always Plan F.