Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Trouble with Gardening

Down the street and around the corner from me lives a woman who keeps her front yard in immaculate shape, weeding and trimming and cultivating incessantly, it seems. Not to sound pervy, but if pressed, I could pick her out of a line-up of neighbors based on her backside alone--because that's essentially the view I have of her every time I drive by--bent over, pulling weeds, clipping roses.... I've seen her out there after dark, wearing a headlamp, going after--what? Weeds? Snails? I applaud her. The thing is, I could be her.

That's one of the problems with gardening; once you really invest yourself in it, once you begin to see how things spring up from seeds and then grow and change and mature, once you've pulled a radish out of the ground or a green bean or tomato from the vine and eaten it, you're hooked. Truth be known, my love of eating the things I grow is so intense, I could spend all day every day just working on my garden.

I know what you're thinking: "You're retired now, Kay! If you want to spend all day gardening, you can do that!" It's okay to think that. Just don't say it aloud; you're just enabling me.

Because just as video games are for the teen (or young adult... or old adult) who doesn't want to face the world outside, so is gardening for me. I retreat into it. The trouble is, I have this other job, the one I should be spending four or five... okay, maybe two or three... hours a day engaged in. Which job? This job.


In the spring, I pulled all the dead sticks out of the slanted planter at the back of my yard and tossed some bags of Miracle Gro onto the hard red clay. (Quick side note on that: I bought six large bags of Miracle Gro Garden Soil from Home Depot. As I opened each one and spread the soil, I discovered empty taco sauce packets, the kind they give you at fast food places, one in each of the six bags. I took a picture and emailed it to Miracle Gro. I did not find the company representative to be as fascinated by this practice as I was.)

Eventually, too late in the season, really, I threw some organic, non-GMO seeds in the ground. Since this year's garden is entirely experimental (because I'm in a new place), I decided to use the "three sisters" template for planting: four corn plants in a square, green beans outside the corn (to vine up the stalks) and squash outside the green beans. I've never done it this way before. And I'll never do it this way again, but hey, it has been fun watching the result.

The corn came up easily (and my neighbors finally became fascinated with what I was doing, climbing around up in the planter every day). After a few weeks, it looked like this:

Then one night we had a windstorm unlike any I have experienced here before. In the morning, the corn looked like this:

Oh no! I'd worked so hard! I called my buddy Harvey (who keeps a much nicer garden in his tiny back yard), and he came to the rescue, helping me pull the stalks back up and support them with stakes and twine. Whew. They kept growing.

Only a few of the many green bean seeds I planted emerged from the soil, and as soon as they did, they were eaten by snails. Sigh....

Meanwhile, the giant sunflowers I'd planted along the back fence (so my sweet neighbor, Jackie, the one with the five Pomeranians, could see them, and so the birds could have the seeds) jumped up out of their seeds and started heading for the sky. Sunflowers don't close up at night, so if I look out my window in the evening or take Thomas out in the middle of the night to pee, these guys are smiling back at me:

They grew taller than the corn. And they are, indeed, "giant."

Finally, the corn began to form ears. But then I noticed something unusual about the silk; it turned purple not long after sprouting:

So of course, I did a Google search of "Why is the corn silk purple?" and discovered that purple corn silk means my soil is sadly lacking in phosphate. Ah well. This was an experiment, after all. Still... I worked so hard! So, added to my gardening notes for next year: Add phosphate to soil along with Miracle Gro. Also check for more taco sauce packets.

The other problem with puttering about the back yard is that it becomes a major distraction for me. As I write this, I am sitting on my patio. I have moved the table so that I have a view of the garden, including the hummingbird and seed feeders. Right now there are six or eight birds on the feeder or below it on the ground--house finches, goldfinches, sparrows. For the past hour, three hummingbirds have been engaged in epic skirmishes, chasing each other from the feeder again and again--and also performing mock strafing missions over the head of Sugar Plum, my tiny tailless black cat who stalks the yard until one of the Pomeranians sees her and barks excitedly, sending her scurrying back to the sanctuary of the house. I could watch these antics play out all day... plus the Phoebes and other insects plucking bugs from the corn stalks and eating them... and the doves who show up to eat the sunflower seeds the other birds knock to the ground... and the mated pair of ravens who stop by to drink from the bird bath about midday. See? It's all too entertaining. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go lock myself in a closet so I can get some writing done.


  1. How fun Sis! It's cool when you can reap what you sow. I tried here in the back. It was not good. tomatoes usually grow good in the HD. Not so here. The lettuce that came up was bitter. So I planted those climbing roses and they did great! I enjoy trimming the roses, as that stimulates the growth of new ones!

    1. Roses... They're so beautiful! And so much work! I have to say I do miss the roses I had in Ontario. (About the only thing I miss from the Ontario house.) I've got kale and radishes growing here, too, but in a tiny patch by the patio. Fun stuff!

  2. I love being outside so much. And when I'm inside, I have to be facing a window. I recently started working with my desk facing a wall. I have the tiniest yard and patio, don't grow food anymore, but I can still spend hours out there. The last couple of times I planted something edible, I was feeling lazy and just split open the big bags of soil and put the seeds and plants in, using the bag as a container. There was no taco sauce though. What a mystery.

    1. Denise, that's so funny--and so sensible! If only I'd thought of that! Seriously, with holes poked in the bottom of the bag for drainage, it could work quite nicely. I'll remember it for next year. Of course, I'll sift through the bags in search of taco sauce packets before I throw the seeds in.