Quite contrary.

May 12th, 2014

Adventures in gardening


 I woke up last weekend needing to dig in the dirt. That urge has been somewhat restrained since we moved to the little house in the valley. I had a very big, very ambitious perennial garden at our old address, and I just haven’t felt like committing to another long-term landscaping relationship.

I flirt around with growing vegetables instead, in a 4 x 4 raised bed that was a gift I chose for myself on Mothers Day a few years ago. It’s a brief, but intense infatuation. Spring comes, and I get excited by the possibilities. I have visions of ripe tomatoes and bell peppers falling into my open arms by the bushel. I obsess over seed company websites and garden forums. I head to the home improvement center and I buy starter plants and soil mixes. Then Southern summer hits, and I am all, excuse me, do I know you? to my parched and withering crop, panhandling for water and fertilizer. 

Vegetables are so needy.

Every spring, I forget all that. Or I sort of remember it, but I persuade myself that this time, this summer, it will be different. Saturday morning, off I went to the home improvement store, preempting an intervention from Patrick by invoking Mother’s Day privilege. I was trying to appear calm and casual, but inside I was burning to get to the store to pick up the latest gizmo that I know will be the answer this time, a self-watering container system (a SYSTEM) that hordes of Home Depot reviewers assured me will practically farm itself. As of one a.m. Friday, which is how late I was up googling tomatoes, there were eight units in stock at our local store. I could barely sleep for worry that others in my city would learn about this miracle product overnight, and beat me to them.

Come morning, I entered the garden center with laser focus, fully prepared to do battle with anyone trying to come between me and my “City Pickers” planter. But I didn’t have to, because–can you believe it–all eight boxes were still in stock. I had a budget that would just cover one, plus the prescribed soil mix, nutrients, and transplants, or I would have grabbed three, maybe four. Because think of the savings in produce! 

There’s a whole other form of wishful thinking going on there, with respect to how many fresh vegetables my family will actually eat, even if I could grow them, but that’s another topic. 

The planter had very specific instructions about the growing medium, because it’s a SYSTEM, but I was on my own to choose what to grow. Thank God I had to be somewhere in an hour, because it doesn’t take a long time in the vegetable aisle for me to get thoroughly lost in the weeds. Also, I was already over budget by half, and I feared Patrick bringing up the inconvenient math of past investments in vegetable gardening. I managed to get a handful of cherry tomatoes from last years’ garden and he said he’d never tasted $100 tomatoes before. The fact that I now have a SYSTEM would be lost on my husband, oh he of little faith.

After several rounds of picking out plants and putting them back, I settled on two tomato plants, a bush cucumber, a hot pepper, and a sweet pepper. 

Do you remember getting a new toy at the store when you were a kid, and you could not wait to get it home and play with it? On Saturday, I was that kid, and this was my toy:


Maybe that’s what gardening really is for me–an excuse to play, which is something I recognize I need more of in my life, but have a very hard time granting myself permission to do. Gardening looks industrious, but maybe it’s just a cover so I can dig in the dirt, like my ten-year-old does for hours without asking what for. When I don’t take time to play, my creativity and productivity become miserable indentured servants. I wind up stealing time from myself here and there to feed them pilfered crumbs of junk that don’t satisfy. 

The assembling and planting of the new planter was over in a couple of hours, but there is more digging and dreaming to be done. The Littlest Who and I are going to try a “Three Sisters” planting of corn, beans, and squash in the 4 X 4. We have a packet of morning glory seeds for the bamboo tee pee. I’ve staked out a new bed in front of the porch for annuals. And there are the petunias he brought home from school in a cup, for Mother’s Day. I planted those with some new ones in a hanging basket. I’ve been in and out of the house all morning, doting on my veggie box. The cucumbers are growing new leaves already. The tomato plants seem taller than they were two days ago. Maybe this year will be different. Maybe I’ll actually harvest enough of a crop to bring the price per pound down to under $20.

Or maybe not.

Either way, I think it was a good investment.  

One Response to “Quite contrary.”

  1. Tom says:

    Curious how your City Pickers experiment is going? I found your site via Google search. I’m a first time patio gardener. I bought two and a month later have a squash beast going on in one and little cucumbers and bell peppers starting in another.

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