Thursday, May 22, 2008


I like the idea of gardening. I like the idea of having a bunch of vegetables growing in my backyard and just wandering around picking whatever looks good for dinner. I like the way the big green healthy plants look.

Anyway, I do like the idea of gardening. The actual fact of doing the gardening is different. I do not so much like the sneezing and the bugs and the digging and the weeding and the other work. My attempts at gardening are not as impressive as some other people's. And I rarely seem to get the timing of it right. So while other gardeners in the area are now eating plenty of stuff from their gardens, I have few big healthy plants and a lot if little seedlings.

From my garden I have collected two spears of asparagus, one very small bell pepper, and a lot of cilantro. I can't really make much from that. I could also have a bit of mint or thyme, but there's not much I could do with that either. I love cilantro, but I can't do much with it until I have tomatoes and peppers and onions. By the time I have tomatoes, the cilantro will mostly be gone.

We used to be fond of watching a British comedy called The Good Neighbors (or The Good Life) and there was an episode that was harvest week, and they had to harvest every single thing that they had grown or it would all spoil. But that was a comedy, and in real life there's no such thing as harvest week, unless you are only growing one type of crop. In real life there are constantly things to do, stuff to pick, stuff to plant. But somehow I don't have the hang of it and don't have enough different things ready at the same time to even make much of a salad.

With worrying about the ceramics and everything, I didn't plant things and such when I should have this year. A few of the pepper plants are getting big enough, but most are still not even yet a foot tall. Same with the tomato plants, and eggplants, and squash. I didn't bother planting much of the stuff that is direct from seed. But two years ago I planted a cilantro, and I've gotten a lot of volunteer plants since then. I am overrun with sunchokes, which are only at an edible stage during the winter and I didn't dig any this year, so I'll have a lot next year. The asparagus isn't really old enough to produce much, and most of what it did produce this year came while I was out of town for the week of spring break, so I didn't eat any of that. We have a fig tree, which we planted in the middle of a drought and hasn't grown enough to produce anything. We have no other fruit trees, but we have a medium size pecan tree which produced a lot last fall, but we were lazy and left them for the squirrels.

Our first garden must have been eighteen years ago. We didn't have a clue. The husband went out and dug up several garden beds and bought a lot of seeds and planted them just like it said on the package. And a month later almost everything was growing except the tomatoes and peppers, which we later learned to buy transplants because at the smaller stage they get a disease that makes them difficult. So we had a lot of stuff growing, but it takes a while before you can eat anything. After the first month, the only thing that you can eat is radishes. We didn't want to eat radishes by themselves, so we waited another month till we had lettuce and such to make a salad. Two and three month old radishes are usually not edible. We didn't know.

Sadly, that first garden sprouted nearly everything that we put in the ground except tomatoes and peppers, but at right about the time we were supposed to get a lot of stuff to eat, our lawn mower broke and we didn't have the money to fix it. We soon had really tall grass and stickers and such, and we couldn't even walk to the back of the yard to get to the garden. Most of it died, and a lot of the rest of it was eaten by rodents.

We never again did anything quite so big. And we planted closer to the house. And we bought tomato and pepper transplants. And we still never seemed to have much stuff at the same time for a proper salad.

We read a lot of books on the subject. Or, at least, we got a lot of books from the library and looked at a lot of pictures. We got a bit better at it. We decided that the main thing that we liked to grow and eat was peppers, and we got pretty good at that. We planted a few fruit trees. After nearly thirty years of not liking asparagus I decided that it wasn't so bad if I cooked it myself and tried to grow some. We stopped planting a lot of stuff like turnips, cause we don't really eat turnips anyway. And while it was easy enough to start growing corn and potatoes, in the end it just wasn't worth fighting the ants over it.

We lived at a house with excellent sandy soil and didn't have to worry about drainage. We bought soaker hoses and built sturdy structures for caging tomatoes and growing vining plants. We finally seemed to get the hang of it all. One year we had pepper and tomato plants that were nearly as tall as me.

And then my husband became a traveling photographer, and we didn't have a garden for a couple of years. And then we had to move to an apartment, which had a very small bit of space for a garden, but the soil was a heavy clay that I didn't like. I learned to garden in containers a bit while I dug up the clay and worked in sand and peat moss.

Right about the time I got the hang of having a tiny garden and had the clay soil replaced at the apartment, my husband decided we should move. I loved my apartment and didn't want to move for a few more years. I didn't even want to fill out the forms to move for another six months. But my husband didn't listen and three months later we were moving to this house.

I originally didn't want to move, but it was an extra two rooms, and it did have a pecan tree, even if not as nice a one as at the old house. And we could have room for a washer and dryer (though the house wasn't properly wired and such to have them both in the same room), and I imagined having a big garden like at the old house. So I agreed, and we moved.

And a year later everything happened, and I wished I had kept the apartment.

But now I have the house, and I don't really want to give up my two extra rooms and my washer and dryer and everything. And I want a big garden. But I don't have the nice sandy soil of the old house and it all takes work.

And it's more than ten years since we had the really wonderful garden at the old house, and my husband has mostly lost interest in it. He certainly doesn't mind having a garden, but it used to be something we did together, and now it isn't. To be fair, I think that at the old house he originally did most of the work, and I mostly provided moral support. But now it is totally the other way round, and I'm not a big strong man, and there's more work to be done here because of the awful clay soil, and I'm just very slow at it. And this year I was really distracted by the ceramics class and didn't get much of anything in the garden done on time.

I'm still working on stuff, but that will mainly be getting stuff ready for next year. It's just too late to be worth the effort of doing anything now. Still, I worry about the little bit that I have done. I worry that my plants will dry up and die if I go out of town for more than a few days.


dmarks said...

"We lived at a house with excellent sandy soil and didn't have to worry about drainage."

I think this is the first time I've seen sandy soil called "nice" or "excellent". We've got nothing but. Maybe I could sell it on eBay.

laughingattheslut said...

Plants grown in the spaces between the soil, and this stuff was easy to dig and had lots of room for the plants and the weeding was easier etc....

The clay I have now is good for the particular grass we have and some of the weeds like it, but it's not good for gardening. There is so much clay here that if I dig down about a foot I have terra cotta clay that I came clean and use in ceramics class.