Friday, 1 November 2013

The Learning Curve

Thank you to those who kindly answered my plea for comments on my last post. It might seem a small thing, but it really makes a difference to me to know there are people out there, and I’m not talking to myself. So please, if you have any thoughts about what I’ve written, or even on something completely different, take the time to make a comment, just for me!

the apples are coming along nicely
I have no idea what I'm doing!
Different people learn in different ways. I learn best by doing. If I’m just reading about something, chances are I’ll forget it pretty quickly. Learning things by rote also doesn’t really work for me – with the exception of the main rivers along the coast of NSW, from north to south, which for some reason I can still recite all these years after learning them when I was about 10 years old. I also learnt all the train stations from Broken Hill to Sydney Central - it was a good party trick when I was at university, but for some strange reason, I can’t remember them all now. Maybe I just don’t have any reason to anymore.
If I have to use the thing I’m trying to learn, I might actually remember it for next time. But the best way for me to learn something is for me to understand it. If something makes sense to me, and it serves some sort of purpose, then even if I don’t remember all the details, those bits that I don’t remember, I can work out.

the peas are a success!
So, like many people, I have to make my own mistakes. If someone tells me “blah, blah”, and it doesn’t make sense to me, I have to try it myself, just to make sure.
Take, for example, growing tomatoes. I love eating tomatoes. I love the flavour of home-grown tomatoes – they have real flavour, much more so than the ones bought from the supermarket. I love the idea of growing my own tomatoes, so I can just wander out the back and pick one when I want one. I love the idea of being able to snack on cherry tomatoes instead of chocolate – well, maybe that is going a bit too far!

Now I have enough space in the backyard for a vegie patch, I want to grow tomatoes. With lots of help from Les, the vegie patch was set up, and sensible things like peas, carrots, and spinach, planted. But the tomatoes couldn’t go in. Whenever I mentioned tomatoes to a local, all I got was “oh, you can’t put them in yet!”. Maybe if the “when” message had been consistent, I would have just left it at that. But one person said “only after Melbourne Cup Day”. Another person said “not before the end of November”. Yet another person said “only plant them out after the last frost” (how can you know when it is the last frost?). The biggest challenge to my way of thinking was when I was told that it was the aim of every Bathurst gardener to have home-grown tomatoes for Christmas lunch. I’ll show them!
current tomato seedlings in the ground
carrots and peas going great guns in the background
Why shouldn't I be able to grow tomatoes? It had worked for me before. So I planted some seeds, in the greenhouse. They germinated nicely, and were going along OK. Then died. Maybe too early.

So I tried again. This time, they got to 2 sets of leaves (they must have 2 sets of leaves before they can be planted out). Yay! So, out they went. Then died. Still too early.
So I tried again. 2 sets of leaves, out into the vegie patch, and each day I checked what the temperature was going to be overnight, and if a frost was possible, covered them. They lasted about 2 weeks. Then died. Still too early.
seedling at back - plant next week
seedlings at front - hopefully ready to plant in a couple of weeks

I know that I’m still about a week too early (ie before Melbourne Cup Day), but the next set of tomato seedlings are in the ground. I obviously still haven’t learnt my lesson, but I’ve got to learn it myself. If these ones die, and the ones that will be ready to go in after Melbourne Cup Day survive, then next year, the learning curve won’t be so steep.


  1. I remember looking after your vegie patch many many years ago when you were on holidays. Ashfield somewhere? But not near the school.... Anyway, you had thousands of cherry tomatoes, almost taking over the joint! So I know you can do it!

    1. I remember that! It was Croydon, and there were so many cherry tomatoes I used to take them in to work and keep them in a bowl on my desk. I would snack on them, and so would my work colleagues. Yum!

  2. Oh Joyful! I learn my biggest lessons on those occasions where I got it horribly wrong. I tend to learn more when I failed rather than when I succeeded because you remember the failures more (well I do anyway) ... like losing a lot of money or making a fool of myself, etc.

    I'm sure all the advice you received are all true and valid (at certain times), but you will get your seedlings to grow your way and you will have your magic formula on when best to grown them. Then you can tell the next new person in Bathurst when to plant them!


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