Thursday, May 7, 2009


We are trying our hand at raised bed gardening this year after a spectacularly disastrous attempt at a garden last summer. Not only did we not have a green thumb, we had a blackened and gangrenous thumb hanging on by its last flesh thread. After planting zucchini, peppers, beets, tomatoes, corn, and a variety of herbs, I think we harvested about ten cherry tomatoes and a bushel of sage. The sad part is I have never cooked with sage and the neighbor boys ate the tomatoes while they picked them.

I can only blame the soil since we had a thriving garden at our old house on Ione Avenue and a veritable working farm when we lived in West Virginia. We were newlyweds then and thought the idea of getting to know the soil was very romantic and so we begged our landlord to let us till up a little bit of the three acre yard. To our surprise, she agreed. Our landlord was a sour older woman who seemed to take great pleasure in denying our every request, especially the one when I asked to take down the mildewed metal awnings that covered what would have been sundrenched kitchen and living room windows. She gave us a firm "no" and then reminded us that it was our responsibility to keep the three acre yard mowed. It took Dean an entire day every week to keep that lawn mowed. Sometimes we let the back acre get long and hoped that her vision was deteriorating with age.

So after the crotchety landlord deliberated for a while in her three-seasons room and finally gave us the go ahead, a friend from church rode his tractor down the highway and rototilled a garden plot for us. The trouble was that we had neglected to specify dimensions, and the size of his tractor was such that when he pulled back onto the highway we were left with a garden about eighteen times larger than we anticipated. Undaunted, we drove the hour to the nearest WalMart and proceeded to fill every square inch of that garden with seeds. By August we were rolling in riotous bunches of zinnias and cosmos and baskets of produce, including about a hundred habanero peppers.

It was a blow to my gardening ego, then, when last year's crop was so wildly unsuccessful. This year Dean built me four raised wooden beds so that we can try our hand at Square Foot Gardening. This is a particular cult of gardening that requires you use a certain soil mix, the procurement of which has cost me innumerable Internet search hours and will likely cost us a goodly number of real dollars as well. It turns out that the specified mix of compost, vermiculite and peat moss is rather like being asked to fill your boxes with a combination of eye of newt, saffron threads and fur from the underbelly of baby unicorns. That is to say, expensive and difficult to come by. At this rate, with the number of hours I have put into researching and trying to execute this blasted plan, I will owe myself several thousand dollars in minimum wage labor. In other words, a whole LOT of zucchini and basil.

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