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.

A long drive

One of the garden projects I’ve been plotting for a while is clearing and revegetating the green strip beside our vertiginous, fifty metre long driveway. “Your front yard is reportable” was the dry remark of a local ranger passing through our botanical garden of pestilence.  After a long day of pulling out weeds in the sun, RB strategically averts his eyes from the tangle of asparagus fern, honeysuckle, spider plant, fishbone, agapanthus, ochna, freesias and trad on the final moments of his trek home.

My most unsuccessful plan to beat the access road into submission was undercover hedge replacement.  Slowly but surely, I figured, blueberry bushes surreptitiously planted amongst the morass of agapanthus would take over, without me every having to have a cross word with the neighbours.  Just like the state under the dictatorship of the proletariat, under the benign influence of my edible fruits the floral weeds would simply wither away.  Right.  I reckon agapanthus could give the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China a good run for its money.

My driveway strawberry patch was a less immediate fail.  When we first moved in I planted up the space between the concrete wheelruts with a couple of dozen Diggers’ strawberries.  At one stage, I had about three metres under weed matting, the strawbs basking in a good bit of morning sunlight and not so close to the footpath to actively invite passers by to help themselves.  We got quite a decent crop during recent La Nina years, possibly because the backyard critters couldn’t be bothered roaming so far from the easy pickings of the chicken run and the compost bin.  The lure of ripe strawberries at the top of the drive had the kids bursting out of the front door on school mornings.

Unfortunately the demands of ministering to this patch in the drier times have demonstrated my deep seated laziness.  Even the glute work-out offered by the stiff hike up the hill out front couldn’t get me sufficiently motivated  to stop the strawberries disappearing beneath the buffalo grass.  Ironically, since mowing said grass is best undertaken with pitons, crampons and a length of abseiling rope.  The occasional stroll, watering can in hand, would have been much less effort.

So I’ve been considering the low-maintenance alternatives.  I got as far as ordering and trying out a couple of prospects just before our recent camping jaunt to South Australia – because it’s always good to leave tiny plantlets without attention or water in their first couple of weeks in the ground, right?

Bearing in mind the can’t-be-bothered-with-the-watering-can factor I figured desert plants might be best.  So, pig face around the post-box and maybe creeping boobiala on the graves of the strawberry plants.  I popped some in to see how they got on.

But it turns out there was no need to watch and wait to find out what myoporum parvifolium would look like.  As the sun rose on the first morning of the trip and I headed into the bush, shovel in hand, for alfresco ablutions, what should I find underfoot but boobiala creeping towards the horizon.

And by the side of the road, a carpet of pig face*.

*Okay, It was probably a different variety of pigface – maybe carpobrotus rossii or aequilaterus or even the round-leaved pigface Disphyma crassifolium subsp. clavellatum (thanks Sherilee!) .  And the myoporum parvifolium wasn’t the fineleafed kind most common in nurseries.  Stop being so damn fussy and let me enjoy the coincidence!