Friday, July 4, 2008

How does my garden grow?

Some people at my stage in life -- one of semi-retirement -- stop and smell the roses. Well, I'm not stopping to smell the roses; I stopped and planted the rosemary.

For my 55th birthday I received from my wife Jane several vegetable and herb plants to grow in a non-existent garden.

The fact that I would even attempt to plant and care for a vegetable/herb garden is way out of character. When I mentioned the garden to family the universal response was, "You?!" It about as out of character as me spending time in a recreational vehicle a campground without room services. As my daughter once observed just before a camping trip with her boyfriend, "Dad, we don't camp."

But here's the irony. I plan to take an RV trip or two in semi-retirement. So in the same vein of "Why not?" comes the garden.

I think Jane is operating under the old assumption: "Idle hands are the devil's playground." I'm not sure just what trouble she thinks I might get into while she's at work, but she must have been thinking that if I had plants to look after every day I wouldn't be straying off the reservation doing something crazy like buying a kayak and paddling around Great Bay by myself. (Hmmmm, I want to do that too.) But I like to cook and she figures some of what might come up in the garden might find its way onto the dinner table some day.

At any rate, I had to start from scratch in the preparation of a garden in which to plant a variety of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and herbs. There is a sunny area against the south wall of the house, so that's where I started, hoe in hand, loam and fertilizer at the ready to plow my back 40. Where are oxen when you need them? That hoeing was hard, sweaty work. Had I known it was that much exercise, I wouldn't have bothered with my exercise run that morning.

The plants are in and on occasion I remember to water them, though I prefer the ease of the afternoon thunderstorm to do the work for me.

It's ironic that the things we want to grow -- flowers, vegetables, herbs -- take so much time and effort and care. Meanwhile, the things we don't want to grow -- weeds, hair from our ears -- just seem to proliferate uncontrollably with absolutely no effort on our part. The weeds in my garden are prolific. I pick them out in the afternoon and more are starting to come in by the next morning. I'd be real, real good at growing a weed garden.

I believe in a practice of Darwinism when it comes to my garden: the strongest survive. But the survival of the fittest plants has part to do with nature and part to do with my inability -- or disinterest -- to garden. If they're going to survive, they'll have to survive me.

I'll do what I can on my part to be nurturing and look forward to the bounty -- however limited -- that might make it to the kitchen. The good news is that there is a sign of at least one pepper and some of the tomato plants are beginning to show some flower buds, which I think is a good thing. The herbs, upon close sensory inspection, smell great, and I should be able to grab some sweet basil, cilantro and rosemary soon.

Wait ... on second thought, forget the rosemary. There isn't any in the garden ... shows you how much I know.
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