Friday, July 23, 2010

My not so green thumb

Okay, so it was not the best year to dive into the world of raised bed gardening. Let me also put it out there that I hate doing yard work. So I have no idea why I thought I would like gardening. Didn't think that one through very well. I like house plants. I always considered myself to be sort of a green thumb as far as they were concerned. As it turns out though, what I like about a garden is the idea of a garden. And that's where my affection ends. I don't like weeds, hard dirt, ants, snails, plants that don't grow, plants that die, sun that doesn't shine, rain that doesn't stop, weeds that masquerade as "herbs", flowers I mistake for lemon cucumber starts...the list is never ending.
I should begin by saying that when we looked at this house I was thrilled to see four raised garden beds in the back yard, basking in it's full sun glory. Our first house was a rental and had about two square feet in the front to plant a flower, which I did every year we lived there. Impatiens. It was super shady. Our next house was on a huge lot with a huge front yard and an even huger back yard. While we lived here I worked full time until our son was born. Totally overwhelmed by the sheer size of the place, I continued my previous routine of planting a couple small flowers right by the front door and calling it good. Then we moved to Washington. Our housing development, we discovered later was built by a rock quarry. This became evident the second I tried to plant some shasta daisies my uncle gave me. They died and that was the extent of digging in the dirt at that house. Then we moved again. This time to a nice sized lot with a nice sized front yard and a cute little back yard complete with raised beds. It seemed my dream of a garden was about to come true.
Since we moved here in the middle of the summer, I didn't plant anything last year. And then came the Fall when I got a new pair of pruning shears and all hell broke loose. I completely hacked five fuchsia bushes to the ground. Convinced I was doing a fantastic job, I clipped and snipped them into oblivion. When I stood back and looked at what I had done, I almost cried. I was barely able to prune back the two hydrangea's before I put the clippers away and vowed never to touch them again. It was a long, barren, fuchsia skeleton filled winter.
Spring came eventually though, and with it some life in the form of blooming lilac bushes. Then came the oh so wonderful daphne bush which made me happy every time I smelled it. The peonies started blooming and before I knew it, it there was lots to do. I had made a decision. I was going to plant a vegetable garden.
I knew I needed to turn up the soil and get it soft for planting. I read articles on the internet about raised bed gardening. I downloaded a pdf file that was full of tips of what to do when. I got and read a couple of books. Then I waited for the rain to stop. I waited for a very long time. When it finally did, I went out there with my little tools and, over the course of several days, turned the soil of three of the beds. I was so proud of myself. They looked pretty even without plants in them.
Next came a trip to the store to buy seeds. I had decided to start from seed because it was cheaper than buying plants. Bad move. First, I had no idea what I was doing. Second, I had no idea what I was doing! After waiting another few weeks for a relatively nice day, I planted marigold seeds in the bed I was going to put tomatoes in later, cilantro seeds, lemon cucumbers, carrots, and nasturtium. I started hot peppers inside in an egg carton. Then it started raining again. A lot. So I waited some more. I am still embarrassed at what happened next.
I never did see any cilantro or marigolds come up. They must have died in the cold wet weather. The nasturtiums germinated well. The lemon cucumbers took off like gang busters. At least I thought they were lemon cucumbers. They were in the spot where I planted the lemon cucumbers at least. There were so many of them I wasn't sure what I would do with them all, so I posted free lemon cucumber starts on freecycle. I had several complete strangers come out in the pouring rain to dig up little starts and take them home to their own gardens. It wasn't until several of the "lemon cucumbers" sprouted up in the other beds and in between the beds that I realized they weren't lemon cucumbers at all, but the little orange flowers I had seen the year before in that spot. I still don't know what they are called, but they are resilient little guys, I'll tell you that. I was so angry at those damn flowers I pulled every last one of them out of the ground. Until a couple of more weeks went by and more sprouted in their place. Then I gave up and let them have it. I never did ever grow a single lemon cucumber.
I did, however, manage to grow a few carrots. Which is where I discovered the gigantic ant nests. Millions and millions of little black ants. Hundreds and hundreds of little white ant larvae. Makes my skin crawl just to think about them. I was so freaked I ran into the house, got the box of Borax, and dumped almost the whole thing on the ant nests. There were three of them. Unfortunately for the carrots, Jason looked up Borax and ants and the whole thing on the internet after he came home from work that night. I suppose I don't blame him for being worried when he saw the three huge piles of white powder mixed in with the carrots he would soon be eating. As it turns out that's not the way you are supposed to do it. Something about mixing the Borax with water or some other liquid and putting little bowls out for the ants to crawl into and eat it. Something about Borax causing cancer after lab rats ingested it. And that was the end of the carrots.
I can't remember exactly when but I know it was sometime after Mother's day when I bought two tomato plants and stuck them in the ground. I was going to plant basil seeds in that same bed, but since the marigolds and cilantro never came up, I caved and just bought a plant. It was completely obliterated by snails in two days and now only the little plastic marker remains to remind me how much I hate those snails. As I was inspecting the ground trying to find any remaining shred of basil evidence, I realized what I thought were weeds nearby were actually mint plants shooting up. I had completely forgotten that I had planted a mint last year. It must have gone to seed and those seeds must have been dormant in the soil or something. Half of that bed is full of mint now.
Around that same time, I planted the hot peppers I had grown in the egg carton. Then we had a heat wave and all but one died. It's two inches tall now. It's the end of July. It's not going to happen.
About ten days ago, I found the packet of sunflower seeds I had forgotten about in a drawer in the kitchen. I all but threw them on the ground and left them to fend for themselves. They are a foot high today. Eaten by snails yes, but holding their own so far.
I haven't decided what I will do next year. The beds themselves are in pretty bad shape. One of the sides of the second bed is literally crumbling away. I, apparently, am like the opposite of a gardener. The plants I try to kill won't die. The plants I forget about are taking over one of the beds. The plants I nurture and put effort into either never sprout or die almost instantly. The only seed I planted that actually turned into anything remotely resembling anything were the nasturtium flowers. Which my mom says you can eat, but since they are in the same bed as the Borax, we'll pass. At this point I am seriously considering digging the whole entire thing up and planting grass. Or letting Jason plant the grass, since I'm sure he'll want the grass to actually grow.
The only saving grace of this whole gardening experience are those five fuchsia bushes. They came back. Well, four of them did anyway. And they look beautiful. They are full and blooming and lovely. See? My thumb is a very light shade of green after all.

1 comment:

  1. just reading this post was exhausting! and not to put too fine of a point on it, but I DON'T GARDEN EITHER!!! so it stands to reason, my dear friend and fellow doppleganger, no wonder this was a disaster! I love your story and the wrap up. Miss you muchly. *muah!*