Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Confessions of a Bad Gardener

There are two kinds of people: those who garden, and those who don't. Those that do are surrounded with masses of flowers, succulent berry bushes, and big fat tomatoes-- right?

I garden, ergo I am a gardener, but let's review my past:

When I was a child, my mother gave me my own plot to garden. I picked off bugs and watered my vegetable plants, which did quite well until the midsummer two-week trip to Nana's. I remember standing in front of my broccoli plants, crying, as they literally had no leaf left. The bugs had eaten my plants down to the spines.

I have never had my own home-grown broccoli.

In college, I came home for 4 months summers intent on gardening. I did secure a few small bowls of cherry tomatoes, but the whole leaving-in-August thing meant that I never tasted one of my own cantaloupes. They rotted with no one to eat them.

During my six months winter-July tenure in Vermont, I was actually on the garden crew. I learned about the beauty of greenhouses, and growing things from seed. I tried to grow my own herbs in my tiny Vermont aerie. The seeds started, sure, and then they stopped. In July, I packed up my Subaru and drove north to Price Edward Island with my mother, toting baby basil seedlings.

Four made it. I transplanted them into metal tin buckets that graced my yellow stoop in Nashville. They died in October, when I cut them off at the stalks and chopped up their leaves for a dinner party. But before you call this a success, please note that out of 6 different types of pants and hundreds of seeds, I emerged with 4 basil plants. Who were kinda spindly anyway.

And this year-- ah, this year. With my indefatigable talent for killing things, I started sweet peas, who grew fervently until I put them in the ground. They have all died.

Last night, I planted poppies, snap peas, and two more sweet peas outside. I transplanted my baby delphinium seedlings into bigger pots.

Keep your fingers crossed.

*But because my husband loves me, he did say that if all my seedlings die, we can buy annuals and transplant them ourselves. And for a thrifty Vermonter, that's saying something--- might have had to do with the tears streaming down my face as I contemplated my withered sweet peas.*


Anonymous said...

I've heard it said that the best way to succeed is to fail--a lot!

I love that bit about your thrifty Vermonter ---aren't you blessed!


Aww, you poor sweetie! I can just see you sniffling over your withered sweet peas, that is so sad! Boy I've been guilty of getting worked up over my plants too - I recall two years ago weeping in grief over the stubs of my lily stems that Jim, in a manly attempt to beat back the wilderness via riding lawnmower, lopped off at ground level before they even got to bloom (my wailing refrain.)

And all the brocolli seedlings I bought maybe last year (they kind of meld together in my memory) got eaten completely to spindly spines too, but I didn't get too worked up over them since I didn't expect too much - I planted them in about 2 inches of dirt on top of that hard-pack circle where the swimming pool was. I've been reading, and apparently some veggies have roots that can go as deep as 9 or 10 feet, so 2 inches is cutting it a little close. :)

Alexe, it doesn't sound like you are hardening off your seedlings, are you? You have to acclimate them to outside a little at a time, in a half shaded spot the first few days or week then back inside at night. In Vermont it's for them to get used to the cold - for you maybe they need to get ready for the sun. You can't just plop them in the ground straight from inside or their tender indoor temperaments will betray you and they'll keel over. Is that it, or is it something else?

What kind of pickles do you want me to make you for Christmas? Or is it jam I should be making? :) *kisses!* *love!* -Caitlin!

Anonymous said...

Mama C says ,
Go for it . The important thing is that you don't give up .
Having grown hundreds of plants of broccoli over many years [first of all I am stunned the kids grow them at all , they got so tired of eating them !!!]I am very protective of the plants . I buy seedlings and I wrap the stems with aluminum foil and plant them that way . Soooooooooo many bugs like to eat them that this way they have a chance to make it . I do the same for my tomatoes . I plant them in milk cartons and when ready I open the bottom of the carton and plant them as is . You can skip that step if you surround the plant with diotomeaecious dirt [sp] The white stuff people use to clean pool's water . Anyway , keep trying and pick brains . Caitlin 10 green thumbs and she'll give you a few I know !!! Much love , God bless ,Mama C
NB I love this song :
Inch by inch row by row ,
Gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile grown .
Inch by inch row by row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone bless them from below til the rain comes tumbeling down ....

Shawn said...

Poppies always grow well. I also like geraniums, lavender and marigolds. Easy to grow, hard to kill, ok to ignore. I am not a gardener at all!

Anonymous said...

I remember sitting in your garden in Virginia, after you had left for the fall semester, munching mournfully on cherry tomatoes and remembering our afternoons with a blanket and bowl-of-tomatoes and books and lazily intertwined limbs.

I love that you invest in little seeds, your excitement when they turn into little green sprouts, and your passion as you kiss those little green sprouts to show them they're loved. (You failed to mention kissing your plants, didn't you??) OR finding you sitting in your garden in the dewy morning, mud caking your toes and fingers as you weed and chatter on to your little audience of sprouts.

You make my world wonderful in ways I never knew.

kisses baby.

Able Ponder said...

I KNOW HOW TO HARDEN OFF! but i was suckered in by the early-spring weather.