Post Season Pursuits: Extreme Gardening

With the enormity of the challenge in front of me, my summer sport of choice seemed like the wrong option.

An hour in, and I was already questioning whether I had the commitment and strength of character to succeed in a pursuit endured by millions across the globe.

I needed something to get me through summer but already I was questioning my choice.

I have never been a fan of the nags, soccer’s lack of scoring and physicality leaves the game inaccessible to me and my love of cricket has declined since the likes of Clarke, Lee and Johnson replaced blokes you’d want to have a beer with.

There are four months before the Super 15 competition begins so I settled upon something that would require every ounce of my physical and mental strength.

I chose gardening. That’s right – extreme gardening.

And none of this tomato seedling into a terracotta pot rubbish for me. I sneered at those with vegie seedlings and potting mix in their trolleys at Bunnings for the amateurs they are.

With the help of my house captain, we were going to remove every living thing from the 50 square metres that is our front yard, spread two cubic metres of fresh soil, replant then cover everything in a thick layer of mulch.

And we were going to do it the very day after I drank a dozen beers during the AFL grand final.

It all made sense; right up until the day after the grand final.

The time had come. A winter’s worth of weeds and grass was waiting.

What had I done? Why wasn’t I facing the new ball of an express bowler on a wet track? At least that would be over quickly.

I looked to the house captain for support.

“Don’t be a hero,” she told me reassuringly. “Just play your role and we’ll be fine. Nobody’s asking you to do any more than that.”

She was right. I put my head down and played my part, going when it was my turn. I was taking it one weed at a time.

The house captain and I stuck to our structures and the result took care of itself as we began to take control all over the field.

Weeds removed, we then had soil to carry and spread. There was a mound of fresh soil dumped on our driveway. I had to take it one barrow load at a time, transporting it to the garden where the house captain was spreading it evenly. You could see why she was captain. She was spreading the mounds of soil perfectly. It was gun barrel straight. Centimetre perfect.

With the soil down, we were at the business end. All we had to do was plant our new shrubs and trees and apply the mulch.

The end was in sight. I had my eyes on the prize (the Boag’s Draught in the fridge) and, responding to the pleas of the house captain, dug deep, promising to leave everything I had in the ground.

The plants went in and bales of mulch were broken and spread around the top. We had climbed the mountain and the result was spectacular.

Like the boy who wanted a new pair of shoes, we were prepared to pay the price.

And once you get a taste of it, you just want more, which is why the vegie patch in the backyard won’t know what hit it next weekend.

Now if I can just get my companion plants to play their roles, I may be onto a winner…


I dedicate this piece to Dips’s roses.


About Stephen Cooke

Cumbersome ruckman of the garden variety


  1. Cookey – I love my gardening. You will too. Keep at it son.

    Last weekend, still basking in the light of the Cats’ flag, I spent Saturday morning spreading fresh cow dung around the garden (cleans out the nostrils I can tell you), and Saturday afternoon putting together our new BBQ (the old BBQ collapsed under the weight of decades of rust). I’m ready for summer.

    My roses are looking quite promising this year.

  2. Pamela Sherpa says

    Stephen , I took to gardening last summer after feeling very frustrated at watching the cricket. I started my Ricky Ponting memorial garden and I’m pleased to say it is thriving. The far back corner of the yard which was nothing but knee high weeds has been transformed . The neighbours and my husband have even complimented me on it ! I l love it for the relaxation it provides- pulling out weeds is instant therapy.

  3. I loved the first test against India and am loving the current test. During the ads, I’m looking out the window at some giant weeds in the front yard. Must get onto them soon …

Leave a Comment