I admit I am not much of a gardener. Part of it is because I’m just plain freakin’ lazy. Sure, let me get that out of the way right now: I hated weeding gardens when I was a kid and not much has changed since then. Now that I’m older and in the tight grip of osteoarthritis, I really hate weeding.
Two of my sisters studied horticulture. Annie died years ago but Buddy is currently enjoying a stint at the Stringer gardening center (shoutout to y’all in Tulsa!) Buddy can just glance at a plant and tell you the genus and species and all the accommodating Latin names, tell you the plant’s sun/shade preference and how to propagate and when to plant and how much to water or feed, when to harvest or what kind of insect deterrent to use – anything. She’s got a green thumb and always has had, since childhood.
I can water a plant as long as I remember it’s there. Yeah, that’s about it.
That’s not to say I haven’t tried to garden. I have a garden going right now that is probably the most successful I have ever done by myself. I have a dozen tomato plants (cherry, Roma and heirloom Cherokee) in pots on the back deck, plants that are actually producing fruit! I also have six eagerly growing cantaloupe plants in the side yard garden plot. They are surrounded by a chicken wire fence since deer and rabbits come up from the nature preserve behind the house to eat anything that flowers in our yard. The strawberries in the decorative circle in the front yard have turned into sacrificial vegetation, much to my dismay, but the melons are being left alone so their sacrifice is not without gain.
Back when I was married, my spouse tried his hand at gardening and he did well. In Oklahoma we had some chickens and a nice little patch of green beans and tomatoes. Then we moved to Marfa, Texas where we (well, mostly he) grew a big bountiful garden in the back yard. People from all over Presidio County drove by our house slowly to stare at it in awe. Marfa is located at the northern end of the Sonora Desert, and apparently people just didn’t put gardens in a desert as a general rule, certainly not a lush green one with green beans, corn, tomatoes, squash, snap peas and okra. He watered and weeded and babied that garden, which took up the entire back yard, all summer long. The kids were barely more than toddlers but they liked to walk up and down the rows and dig in the dirt, and help water the plants with the garden hose. We never got to harvest any of it, however. His paying job at a car dealership wasn’t turning out as promised, and we wound up moving 1500 miles to his parents’ place before the summer was out. We left that big garden laden with ripening fruit to his boss and our neighbors, who were downright giddy at the prospect of all that food they neither had to pay for or toil over.
We tried another garden a few years later but it, like the marriage, eventually failed. I suppose that garden we left in Marfa is a fitting metaphor for the marriage in many ways: so much potential that was never properly or fully harvested.
So here I am twenty years later, living with and looking out for his mother (hey, I divorced him, not his family) and tinkering around with plant life again. The Lady Anne is more into flowers but she likes my attempt to raise vegetables too. She putters around with plants on the deck but leaves the side garden (on a sharply sloping lawn) to me. Last year we tried squash and tomatoes and green beans and peppers in that garden but what plants weren’t choked out by weeds, were gobbled up by insects or animals. This year I decided to just concentrate on squash and melons in the side garden, laid down some weed-out fabric and pine straw surrounding the plants, and that kept down the weeds. The fence helped solve the animal problem, and a host of helpful ladybugs are keeping the destructive insects at bay.
I have a soaker hose snaking around the melon plants and turn it on every day, and the resulting vines are growing in leaps and bounds. The squash plants threw in the towel early on. Maybe they saw the melons racing to get all the good space and decided “yeah, we can’t compete with that” and died from something; sulking, I dunno.
The tomatoes are producing. They are turning red; hell, I’ve even EATEN a few of them. To a habitual black thumb, plant-killing El Destructo of Vegetation like me, that’s a triumph. It’s like winning an Oscar or a Pulitzer, which is kind of sad I admit.
“Well, I didn’t kill anything outright so I guess I deserve an award of some kind.”
It’s actually simply “winning a small contribution to a salad” and hopefully later this year, I’ll have some juicy cantaloupe to freely nosh on!
Unless, of course, I move somewhere else before harvest.