a short story by Graham Pockett ©

All characters in this story are fictitious; and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

It's become fashionable to enjoy your backyard – that great Australian tradition which has recently been restricted to a four foot (metric feet, of course) space between the backdoor of the modern brick veneer abode and the back fence.

Let it be sufficient to say that the reducing space in the modern backyard suits my gardening prowess.

I have a black thumb!

My current problems started when my better half (her description) decided she wanted a vegie patch – somewhere to watch an assortment of scraggy flora shrivel and die (my description).

Now I don't mind in the least her having a vegie patch, but I do object when it's yours truly who has to do the back breaking job of digging and hoeing, raking and watering.

My arguments were in vain.

I knew they would be, of course, but I just had to try. The Wife has always said I'm trying…

She pointed out the spot where she wanted the garden and told me to get to it. Not even losing the spade helped. She just sent me next door to borrow one from them. There's no justice in the world – specially when their spade had seen better days (I think it had been owned by Moses – that's Jake Moses who lives down the corner). I might even find our spade, if I looked really hard…

The sun blazed down, the sweat poured off in rivers, and I contemplated where to dig. A man could get heatstroke just thinking about starting! Is there no justice in this world?

In a fit of frustration I thrust the spade deep into the earth, prepared to get the disgusting job over and done with in double time.

Have you ever thrust a spade deep into the ground, only to find a boulder the size of the Sydney Opera House half a (metric) inch below the surface?

The spade tried to emulate a tuning fork as the vibrations ran up through the handle, through my body, and disappeared into the wide open spaces between my teeth.

The hairs on my tongue stood on end!

I threw the spade away in vibrating agony, only to see it bounce off the concrete path.

Did you know that spades are not designed to be bounced off concrete paths? I should give the bill for replacing the family room window to my next door neighbour. Well, it was his spade. Serve him right for loaning it to The Wife in the first place.

My sense of humour, at best in short supply, was now operating at around ground zero. I was getting all set to explode.

I looked at the amount of effort required to establish the vegetable garden, thought of the dry corn-on-the-cob, flowery tomatoes, tasteless lettuce, rotten pumpkin, and other delectable goodies. Joy of joys! My blood pressure could power a hydro-electric generator.

Isn't gardening relaxing?

I stormed off to hide in the workshop, have a cold beer, and listen to the football on the radio. The fridge had broken down so the beer was warm and my team was getting thrashed by the side at the bottom of the ladder.

The Snowy Mountain Scheme had a rival, and my blood pressure was still rising.

What I really need was some quiet time so I could stick pins into garden guru dolls. You know, those guys who tell you how easy it is to have a garden that looks like it came out of Vogue magazine. I bet they don't have to dig vegie patches for their wives.

What do those guys know anyway? I have ascertained that gardening is really snail farming on a large scale.

Your crop of snails is directly proportional to the cost of the plants. Not only do I keep the snail pellet people in business, I love to go out with a torch in the evening after it's been raining and crunch the little beggars with my size tens.

Due to my black thumb I've worked out a way to have some greenery around without having to resort to green concrete.

I buy pot plants.

The plants invariably die after a short period. If I replace them with ones of the same type, the only people who know are my local nurseryman and the bank manager.

You can see why I buy pot plants.

So my interest in The Wife's vegie patch was at rock bottom, and that was before I started to do any of the actual work. Add the labouring element, and I could quite happily retire from the garden creation business.

You'll probably notice that when you have fresh vegetables in your backyard, their price in the local supermarkets is at rock bottom. The effort in nursing your 'prize' beans through adversary to the point when you can enjoy them does not relate to the 29¢ per kilo you pay for them in the shops.

And The Wife wants a vegie patch!

I finally found our spade sulking in the back of the shed under a pile of old hessian bags (how did it get there?) and resumed my assault on The Rock which-was-to-be The Wife's vegie patch.

It didn't take me long to realise the spade was not up to the task of moving a buried monolith. Bigger guns were needed – a crowbar.

I grunted, I groaned, I pushed, I shoved, I finally got the crowbar over to The Rock. This was not progressing quite as I had envisaged.

Eventually I won. The powder monkey said it was the biggest rock he'd had to blast in a suburban backyard.

My next glorious task was to remove the rubble left over from the blast… And remove rubble… And remove rubble… And remove rubble…

Einstein was wrong. There was more rock removed as rubble than there ever had been when it was a single entity. Trailer load after trailer load went down to the local tip.

Where The Rock had been there was now an enormous crater. But I knew how to handle that situation – you fill the bloody thing back in! All that work in carting away The Rock would be duplicated by filling in The Hole.

My poor back took one look at the task ahead and went on strike. Not that I blame it, mind you, but it's hard to lie back reading while your back decides if it will ever work again.

Unfortunately the doctor broke his Hypocritical Oath and told The Wife I was malingering. Me a malingerer? Maybe my back was, but I certainly wasn't.

Needless to say, my days of putting up my feet and reading came to an abrupt halt as The Wife put her foot down. Just exactly where she put her foot down I'd rather not say, however I did not tarry in returning to The Hole which-was-to-be a vegie patch.

The humungous Hole was still there. Half full of water with a drowned rat floating on the surface, The Hole just looked up at me with its one big eye, and laughed. I don't like holes laughing at me.

I went to my extensive (but rarely used) library of how-to books and looked up "Vegetable Gardens – their creation and care".

Compost, that's what the book said to use for a vegie patch, so compost I'd use. If I had to make a blasted vegie patch then at least it would be the best darned vegie patch in town.

The book said compost was a combination of manure and garden refuse.

I had often passed a sign on the side of the road advertising "Chook Poo" so, armed with a cheque book and a trailer, I went back there and spent slightly more than I'd planned.

By this time I was actually starting to get into the spirit of the exercise and decided that, if a little manure was good, then a lot would be better. I three quarters filled The Hole with manure and topped it up with garden and kitchen refuse, turning over the top (metric) foot or so with my spade.

A trip to my local nursery saw a surprised nurseryman sell me, not pot plants as usual, but seedlings – punnets and punnets of tiny seedlings. My trailer was getting accustomed to full loads now – rubble, then manure, now seedlings. I seemed to have enough seedlings to plant as lawn.

I planted seedlings, and planted seedlings, and planted seedlings, until my malingering back went out on strike again.

Eventually they were all planted and I settled back to enjoy the fruits of my considerable labour.

I watered my little babies, powdered their bottoms, wiped their leafy noses, and ripped out the naughty weeds that vied for space in The Wife's vegie patch.

The seedlings died!

Their little green sprouts became yellow, the leaves fell off, and they turned up their little toes, er roots. They joined my pot plants in plant heaven.

The Wife called in a gardener. He looked over the situation and said the problem was that the compost was too 'green' and to replace it with a more mature mix. Success then would be just around the corner.

The Wife thanked him for the quote, telling him she'd let him know in due course – and then she sent me out to do the job. Never trust a woman.

I dug the patch. Not being an ex-hippie, my digging was done with a spade. Neither was it enjoyable.

The Hole was recreated. Joy of joys!

My local nurseryman, contemplating retirement from The Wife's vegie patch, was happy to supply me with a more mature compost mix. When he heard what was in the old mix he even offered to take it off my hands for nothing.

Wasn't he a nice man.

Trailer load after trailer load of the nurseryman's best compost went into refilling The Hole. My bank manager wanted another mortgage on the house to cover the overdraft.

If and when vegetables cost more than $1,875.00 per kilo, The Wife's vegie patch might, just might, pay for itself.

Finally it was completed, seedlings were replanted, and I went back to the watering, weeding and whingeing which goes with looking after your wife's vegie patch.

My attack on our local snail population took on the proportions of a large scale offensive. Deep trenches were dug around the vegie patch and filled with snail bait. My midnight ambling took on a whole new meaning as I crunched my way through wave after wave of enemy snails.

They were coming from three blocks away, regiment after regiment joined in the assault. The prize, The Wife's vegie patch.

If only I could train the dog to join in the fight but the stupid pooch just wanted to play – with me or the snails he didn't care. Wasn't it nice for him to have someone to play with at night!

What he really needed was someone to teach him the facts of life – with a piece of four by two.

In the battle of the snail we had to rally support. It was a bitter campaign with no quarters taken, or given.

Finally we won. Most of the seedlings had been savaged by the enemy but while they'd won the odd battle, the war was ours.

I surveyed the battlefield. The lettuces were down, never to rise again; the beans possibly could survive given time to some R & R; the carrots, while chewed to ground level, looked like they might weather the storm; the silver beet was a goner; the cabbage likewise; but the potatoes would survive an atomic bomb (well, they do survive in Ireland); and the pumpkin was looking good.

Some losses, but an acceptable result.

Again I nursed my little babies, kept both the dog and the cat from using the area as their playground/toilet. I also kept a wary eye open for my old adversaries, the snails.

Having recovered from the attack, my plants – no little seedlings now – started to die one by one.

I was devastated. After having gone from hatred for the vegie patch to disdain, I'd finally come to like the idea of having our own home-grown vegies. Not that I would ever admit it to The Wife.

I stayed up all night watching, laid out more snail pellets – even changing brands in case the little beggars became immune to the poison. Nothing worked. The plants died one by one…

They were getting the best attention I could give them, but the attack of the killer black thumb was obviously too much.

Finally only the hardy pumpkin was left, and my attention was concentrated on keeping this one plant alive.

The pumpkin vine started off having dozens of baby fruit scattered along its prickly length but, one by one, they shrivelled and died until just one specimen remained on the vine.

“Wonder if the pensioners next door are looking for cheap low maintenance accommodation…?”
I did everything I could to save that one last pumpkin – and my efforts seemed to work. The pumpkin grew, and grew, and grew until I was looking at the largest pumpkin I had ever seen.

I figured the whole vine was feeding just that one pumpkin and it was growing, and growing, and growing.

It became huge!

I couldn't believe just how large it became. If I had hollowed it out and cut some doors and windows into its skin, it could have been rented out. Wonder if the pensioners next door are looking for cheap low maintenance accommodation…?

Local newspapers sent around reporters and I became something of a horticultural celebrity. The man with the black thumb was hailed as a gardening guru!

I read a few books and gave talks to all the local gardening clubs. People asked for my advice on their gardening problems.

Still my paradoxical pumpkin grew, as did my use of Latin horticultural names. Not that I was always really sure I had the correct pronunciation, but no-one corrected me so I just kept on using them.

I became an 'expert'.

Finally I felt confident enough to call in the Guiness people to see if the pumpkin was up to world record status.

As the day the representatives were due to call drew near, I started to panic. What if… There were too many 'ifs'. My whole celebrity status rested on the decision given by these umpires.

And then it happened. I was looking out the window when I saw my big black pooch deliberately go to the vegie patch, cock his leg, and water the giant pumpkin. I now knew what killed all my other plants.

The dog's lifespan was shortening by the second.

By that afternoon the rot had set in and by the following morning the pumpkin was just a mess.

And so was I.

Thinking back on the pot plants which had died for no apparent reason, I started to put two and two together. My blood pressure was back to critical. Heaven help the dog if I got my dirt stained hands on him…

But now I have a problem. The Wife wants her vegie patch resurrected and will not hear of me taking vengeance on the dog. My neighbours are openly laughing at me for the way I was carrying on when I was a 'celebrity', the local newspaper has taken my name off the list of local 'experts', and my children won't go to school for fear of ridicule.

I have called in Joe the Concreter for a quote.

He said I could have the green colouring free…

Author's Note:

"The Vegie Patch" was originally written in the 80s to be part of a book about the antics of the world's greatest loser. I must give credit to an ancient radio serial, Life With Dexter, for the original idea. I wrote a couple of other stories for the now-defunct book. The first in the series was A Moving Story. This is the second.

This story was slightly modified in 1994 when I was doing a short story writing course. In this version I have left in the UK English spelling of some words (like "cheque") and the reference to the Snowy Mountain Scheme, described as "one of the most complex integrated water and hydro-electric power schemes in the world".

Graham Pockett

This story is copyright © and may not be used without my written permission.


Graham’s Christian writing:
"Graham Pockett doesn't mince any words, but he writes with a kind heart. If you have questions about such things as "once saved, always saved", or why so many different ideas can come from the same scripture, or how much what we see and do affects us as spiritual beings, you'll find much to think about here."  from This Christian Life
Graham Pockett
Download these articles:
  • The Key To Heaven  (an analogy about commitment)
  • I Am A Cynic; Therefore I Am A Christian
  • Evolution – a statistical question mark?
  • “Once Saved Always Saved” – a dangerous delusion?
  • Who is my Neighbor? – featuring "The Parable of the Good Muslim"
  • Bashing The Bible – misusing & abusing Scripture
  • Two Billion Doctrines – the strange religion called Christianity
  • Does God Ever Change His Mind? – Calvin would turn in his grave!
  • New Wine In An Old Skin – the problem of legalism in the church today
  • Are You Hard Boiled, Or Soft & Runny? – doctrines are like an egg shell
  • The Bible is an "iffy" book – a look at the conditional promises of God
  • Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? – what did Jesus really look like?
  • The Truth Will Set You Free! – the Holy Tarantula???
  • Growing the Seed of Faith – so it doesn't wither and die
  • We Don't See The Clean, Just The Dirt – judgement and forgiveness
  • Why I Quote The NIV Bible – is it an heretical Bible?
  • "Omissions" from the NIV Bible – a look at 17 missing verses
  • Do You Believe In Miracles? – you do when they happen to you!
  • “Why Didn’t God Answer My Prayer For A Miracle?” – my response
  • Christian Concepts – the cavern of life  (an analogy)
  • Christian Concepts – the three crosses  (an analogy)
  • Christian Concepts – we are what we eat
  • Christian Concepts – when are we saved?  (an analogy)
  • Christian Concepts – when we are saved, part 1  ...part 2

  • Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come to the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you...
    Acts 3:19-20 NIV

    Could this key save your life?

    Click on it to find out.

    To Button Bar

    © Graham Pockett
    Last Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2019