When I was little, my grandmother and mother shared a garden plot with my aunt and uncle who lived just behind us on our block. The garden plot wasn’t in either of our yards, but in the backyard of an old guy who was a worm farmer. He had a giant claw foot bathtub near the garden that was FULL of giant worms. Well, I don’t know how giant they were, but when you’re a girl and you’re about six, they are definitely GIANT WORMS. He sold them for bait to local fishermen, but back to the garden story.
My grandmother was…mmm…what’s the word…cantankerous. She ruled that garden with an iron fist and phrases like “YOU’RE STEPPING ON THE BEETS” or “GET OUT OF THOSE TOMATOES”. I obviously was not much help in the garden unless I wasn’t IN the garden. They canned a lot of their produce and I can remember coming home to the eye watering smell of vinegar in the house and there would be tub after tub of cucumbers soaking in pickling brine. I’d poke them with a spoon and then hear “LEAVE THOSE PICKLES ALONE!”. Grandma apparently ruled the kitchen with an iron spoon.
When I decided to take up backyard chicken raising, suddenly I wanted to grow food too. Not just for me, but for the chickens who seem to love garden fare. I happily announced, not long after the trip to the Rural King for chicks, that I wanted a garden. It was received with surprisingly few comments from the family. Keep in mind, that these people KNOW me and my love of new projects. I’m always cooking up some fabulous idea that usually involves me giving a lot of directions and my husband and son doing a lot of work that I respond to by saying “Oh…I didn’t want it THAT way” and the usual response is that I’m going to end up with just my head in a duffle bag on the front seat of my car.
As per my usual, I was terribly excited at the prospect of growing food. First of all…food is expensive, second of all…when you buy food in the store you have no idea whether or not they’ve beaten the spiders out of it. I’m convinced that I’m going to be killed by a bunch of bananas some day that contain some sort of fang-toothed-forty-eyed-furry-legged spider from South America OR I’m going to buy some lettuce that has been irrigated with water that somehow contained a dead animal and I’m going to contract some horrible disease carried by…well, dead animals. My husband thinks I’m a head case. I think he should check the bananas for spiders.
Anyway, on another trip to the Rural King (calm down…I didn’t get more chicks…don’t think I didn’t TRY though), my son and I poured through all the seed packets, onion sets and seed potatoes. I didn’t even think about the size this garden would have to be, I just happily kept tossing seed packets in the cart while Greg (my son) came trotting over with an arm load of other garden goodies like seed starting trays, those pots that dissolve in the dirt (do those have a name?) and other various garden bric-a-brac. When I started ranting about corn, my husband decided it was time to go.
So we hauled everything home and Greg sat on the deck with a bag of dirt and a bag of peat moss and planted seeds in pots and trays. Everything was carefully labeled with dates and the type of seed in the pot, something I’d never thought of doing but hey he’s an environmental science major so I just went along with whatever he decided because I have no idea what I’m doing. We loaded up the freshly planted seeds on to the deck during the day and dutifully dragged them back into the house at night because Spring was dragging its great big green feet and didn’t seem to want to make an appearance any time soon.
Finally, the plants started poking their leaves through the dirt. They were so delicate and so fragile and really very miraculous. I suddenly became rather attached to them. They were sort of like strange, green, leafy children that didn’t say much which made them all that much more lovable. One day, I realized that I would have to thin out some of the 600 tomatoes growing in each pot…and the cute broccoli was starting to get so big and it needed to be thinned too. It makes me kind of sad, because they went through ALL that trouble to germinate and now I was going to just yank them out of the pot and ruin their whole plant groove. So I keep putting it off, which isn’t good for them, but works for me. I plan on making my son do it because I make him do all the stuff I don’t want to do and although he’s oddly obsessed with fish, I don’t think he’ll have any problems with mass plant homicide.
I still have far too many packets of seeds to plant…the ones that really don’t need to be started in a pot. One night, I was discussing it with the indentured servants (read as: my husband and son) and I realized that this garden was going to be roughly the size of a football field if I really plant all this stuff. I also don’t want to use any chemicals, so that means I have to WEED. Remember what I said about spiders? Have you ever seen those giant orb weaving garden spiders that are the size of hotdogs with four inch legs?
I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to hear me screaming from your house.