My Medieval Garden

I did a very daring thing yesterday: I dug up a patch of dirt behind our spa and planted vegetables. If plants were people, I’d be in jail for all the plants that have died in my neglectful, inept care. If I brought every plant that has died on my watch back to OSH, I’d have been banned from the store long ago.

But hope springs eternal. I have a neighbor with an abundant produce garden and I envy her ability to simply walk into her backyard whenever she wants herbs, vegetables or fruits for a meal. It’s always fresh, it’s already paid for, and there’s no waiting in line at a register or cash box. It’s also vaguely good for the environment, since presumably more plants will suck more carbon dioxide out of the air, and there’s no trucking of said produce involved. And what finally sold me on the idea altogether was the thought that this could be educational, both for my children and me.

It’s already been an adventure. Peter suggested renting a rototiller to prepare the ground, but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to get the thing started (and to my credit, neither could my gardening-savvy neighbor.) It’s a very small plot, so I returned the rototiller and got some exercise instead with a shovel, hoe, and rake.

I thought that was all the digging I had to do, but I was mistaken. Peter thought he’d like us to have our own pumpkins to carve at Halloween, so I bought some pumpkin seeds. It turns out pumpkins are garden space hogs with a monarch complex to boot, and require their own castle of dirt, surrounded by its own moat. This fact meant I had to build the pumpkin dirt castle and moat. I fear the pumpkin seeds may yet find the castle unsatisfactory and refuse to sprout, but I have to try.

Everything else, blessedly, just required a hole. My neighbor gave me some tomato seedlings, which she instructed me to plant together with some manure; I bought them a tomato “cage” to grow into and I’ll get them some not-so-stinky fertilizer. I guess if the pumpkins are the kings, the tomatoes are the knaves in the dungeon. I planted this year’s green living thing from Neil, which he always gets from school to give me as a Mother’s Day present, and which is lucky if it manages to stay alive to Father’s Day. And I bought some green pepper plants, because I think green peppers are expensive at the supermarket, and if the pepper plants fruit, and if they produce more than a single pepper apiece, I may come ahead financially. The ambitious part of me has me thinking about planting basil, broccoli, and strawberries as well, but the realistic part of me points out that if this garden fails, only four species will have met their demise, and it’ll be a little less depressing and expensive.

So we’ll see how it all works out. I have one little ace up my sleeve: this afternoon, I’m getting Kelly a kiddie-sized watering can, since she loves watering the plants but can’t manage my 2-gallon watering can. Maybe she’ll have the green thumb her mother’s missing. And the pumpkins will undoubtedly love her princess obsession.

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