The Highs and Woes of the Beginner Gardener

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This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks!  Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you.

As soon as the dirt in my backyard can be prodded with a trowel, no euphemism, my thoughts turn to gardening. O happy is the day when I put the peas in!  I’m such a dish in my beginner gardener gloves sowing nice neat beginner gardener rows of spinach seeds, saying to my husband, Farm boy, fetch me that pitcher. It was the first year I ever gardened. I was gimlet-eyed and optimistic. I could totally make an English cottage garden and vegetable patch. How hard could it be? I would soon be out there drinking rosé.

You probably already know this, but the deer ate everything. $500 worth of boutique heirloom tomatoes, a fig tree, and both male and female raspberry bushes, hostas that were supposed to have various scents but I never got to smell them, because as you can see from the beginning of this sentence: the deer ate them.  And what the deer didn’t eat the rabbits and groundhogs did. My garden produced One Single Radish. It was my husband’s suggestion that we petition The Brewer’s Art with this name. One Single Radish.   It would taste of my tears. 

As a beginner gardener I had been Robin Wright in A Princess Bride but, gardening is a spectrum disorder, and this year I’m cagey, jaded, miserly. I’ve turned into the lean-armed, grim and determined Robin Wright in House of Cards I take the guy at the garden center aside, “Buddy, got anything that not just a deterrent but that’s downright poisonous to deer?”

I pore over the seed packages. What region am I in, exactly? How many hours of sun a day do I get? Is my house west-facing? I ask the kids, “Does our soil seem ‘sandy’ or ‘silty’?”and they’re like, “Whatever. Can we go to Artifact for those apple fritter thingies?” And I’m all, “You want apples? I WILL GROW APPLES.”

Beginner gardening is for the birds (the birds that ate all the raspberries) and idiots.  You have to have a lot of air between your ears and be willing to skip around with your wallet open. Skip this part. Let me be a lesson to you. Get with the master gardeners. The ones who taste the dirt,  have a weather eye, and experience. They laughed uproariously when I called them to ask about the hostas. “Honey, there are some things you just can’t do in Maryland, but we’ll help you do what you can with what you’ve got.”

 



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  1. OMG — I laughed so hard I cried, and I have now read it aloud to three different listeners — Elizabeth Bastos ROCKS! Who cares if she can garden, the gal can WRITE! (Seriously, though, I feel your pain about gardening — I am beginning to dream of shooting the squirrels in my yard, who have not only eaten ALL of the birdseed; they have also consumed my entire crop of apples, tomatoes, and strawberries the last three years running — it can make a girl downright anti-critter!)

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