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Green Thumbs and Dirty Hands

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We’re planting a garden again. It’s the third year in a row. Year one: complete disaster. Our lot is a sand dune and, according to our landlord, the highest point in Bradenton. The first time around, we didn’t border the garden properly, so all the sand (and, presumably, most of the seeds) washed away during […]

February 17, 2012


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We’re planting a garden again. It’s the third year in a row. Year one: complete disaster. Our lot is a sand dune and, according to our landlord, the highest point in Bradenton. The first time around, we didn’t border the garden properly, so all the sand (and, presumably, most of the seeds) washed away during any of the few times we remembered to water, and the plot was reclaimed by the grass before anything identifiable took root. I can’t even remember what we planted.
 
Last year, bolstered by a little early prep work, we paid better attention. Pa fixed us 10-by-8 wooden frame to make the area a little more official. After impulse-buying a strange collection of seeds during a trip to Lowe’s, we planted summer squash, fennel, sugar-snap peas, romaine and spinach. CCB even started a couple varieties of tomatoes from seed, which spent their early lives in one of the weird brick planters in our living room.
 
The peas worked well enough, though my support system—a string of wire run back and forth between a broken hockey stick and a piece of deceased lawn furniture with rusty screws sticking out of it—left a little to be desired. And the yield went almost entirely to one family dinner, and even then the portions were small.
 
The summer squash flourished with long vines and big leaves, churning out enough fruits to keep me satisfied and even give a bagful to the ‘rents—though many more squash suffered and shriveled from our still-inconsistent watering habits.
 
The romaine never quite made it, and the spinach was decimated by insects before we could harvest even enough for a salad. The tomatoes tried their darnedest and even showed some fruits after being transplanted—but then in one fell swoop something snuck along in the middle of the night and took them all.
 
The fennel grew wild and tall as we struggled to figure out how to use it, until eventually it was less herb and more giant, man-eating weed.
 
So after a respectable mourning period, we plucked all the remaining vegetable skeletons and began depositing our compostables directly into the empty bed. Over the summer I painstakingly removed all the weeds, then eventually covered the whole plot with a tarp to help keep the area manageable.
 
Now we’re back around to planting season again, and gardening has begun to seep into our regular habits, and our methods continue to evolve, though we haven’t yet pulled the trigger and actually planted a damn thing. I at least did a little research to make a prospective list of crops, so we wouldn’t be planning our garden while reading all the backs of the seed packets at the store.
 
I purposefully included a few more than we’d have room for so we could see what strikes our fancy when the time comes: squash and peas again, plus lima beans, pole beans, green onion, jalapeno, cucumber, cantaloupe and pumpkin (which seems to grow well enough around the yard just from our Halloween discards).
 
I also got a bag of fertilizer and some insecticide, since the little veggies do seem to need more than sand, sun and water. And yesterday I bought a small metal sprinkler that can be placed and kept right in the middle of the plot, removing need for all that burdensome standing and waiting that so discouraged our watering in the past.
 
Of course, what’s left is to get in there and get our hands dirty. Then we’ll see how our garden grows.