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    GARDENING IS THE SOCIAL GLUE NEEDED FOR HAPPY HEALTHY COMMUNITIES

    Date:

    By John Weldon

    A marrow by any other name would smell as sweet, or rather it wouldn’t – there’s no real scent to the flowers, although they do taste delicious stuffed with ricotta. The fruit is good eating too, when small, but tends to woodiness when large. Larger marrows can also be very heavy– bend the knees while lifting. 

    Once lifted, the next question is where to put them and why – what do you do with a 20 kilo woody fruit? Compost? Maybe. Some people make a kind of rum out of them, but please, don’t try this at home as the alcohols produced by some wild yeasts can be very poisonous. 

    Speaking of wild, marrow plants are just that – they’ll over run your entire garden if you let them. They might even take over your neighbourhood, if you’re lucky, entangling families and bringing them together. That’s where it gets exciting.

    The Yarraville Marrow Growers Association (YMGA) was born out of such an entanglement. Back in the late noughties, my wife and her friends started attending book groups, singing, exercise and dance classes. My male friends and I friends set about, unintentionally, proving true the maxim that as men age they become more and more isolated. We stayed home. More specifically we stayed in our gardens. 

    Determined not to become isolated old farts, but still content to stay in our gardens, we dads ordered a packet of giant marrow seeds and set up the YMGA; ostensibly a gardening club, in reality a chance to go to the Yarraville Bowlo for a few beers every now and then.

    Against all expectations the marrows took off and so did we. Over the next decade or so, a few beers now and then turned into huge neighbourhood parties celebrating the harvesting and planting of seed, the sharing of seedlings and of course the grand weigh off.

    They say it takes a village to raise a child – in our case it took a marrow to raise a village. We’ve seen our friendships, kids and our marrows grow side by side – toddlers who were once smaller than marrows now tower over their parents. And BTW, we found the best use for the 20 kilo monsters is as glue: social glue.

    Tips for growing your own giant marrows

    The white zucchinis you buy from Bunnings are the same species. Plant them in well-drained soil, rich in compost and cow manure – look for a pH of around 6.5. 

    Marrows produce rounded female flowers and long leggy male flowers. They’re not great at self-fertilisation so when you see female flowers about to bloom, get there early in the morning and pollinate by hand. For best results, take a male flower, strip him of his petals, insert his pollen-rich stamen into the female flower and jiggle it around (I’m blushing as I write this). 

    For giant marrows you want one fruit per plant, about 3 metres from the root ball. Strip away extraneous shoots and remove and eat any extra fruit as it appears. Once set, you’ve got about 12 weeks till the fruit is ripe. Lots of water and seaweed solution during that time will see you right.

    Marrows need air circulation otherwise powdery mildew can strike. Strip a few leaves off if your plant is looking crowded, never water at night and always water the soil only – not the plant. I’ve tried all the cures for powdery mildew and the only one that comes anywhere near working is the removal of all affected leaves. Even then, there’s no guarantee. Happy marrow growing! 

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