“I wonder how hard it would be to get a garden planted behind the music store.” The words came out of my own mouth, surprising even me just a bit as we sat and ate another great meal tonight. Now, the Lovely Lady is not a cynical person, but cynical would be the only word I can use to describe the look she gave me. “And, just who would be responsible to take care of this garden of yours?” I think the question was rhetorical, since probably no one knows better than she my aversion to weeding and cultivating (what is the difference between those two activities, anyway?) in any garden, regardless of the crop. It seems the cynicism probably comes from the belief that at any minute, I’ll be describing her part in the said garden, and she doesn’t have many spare minutes in her day already. It could also be that her memory, like mine, is taking the long journey back over thirty years to my last gardening attempt.
We had been married all of two years and I was a bit tired, to tell the truth, of hearing her Dad talk about the size of the squash he was going to have this year. Anybody can grow big squash; you just stick the seeds in the ground and they grow, right? But, the property we lived on was not appropriate for a garden, being at the bottom of a rocky hill. I had tried to till the ground there, only succeeding in shaking and jarring my body unbelievably, because of the boulders growing up through the dirt. I gave up after the decrepit tiller died one too many times, with a rock jammed between the tines and the motor case. But I didn’t lose hope. The Lovely Lady had an uncle who was also a gardener. Actually, he had nine children who acted as slave labor amongst the vegetables, but he got to do the bragging. His garden was across town, but he had more space than he could use for his plot and was willing to share. There was only one catch…we would have to haul water for the crops to the property. The place we were being offered was actually in a vacant lot with no running water. While he had permission to use the neighbors tap for his plants, we would need to fend for ourselves if we wanted to give it a shot. In my ignorance and arrogance, I agreed to the challenge. Monster squash? We’d have squash that would make theirs look like culls!
It started out just great; the ground was tilled, seeds planted, and growing commenced. I had checked with all the experts and was assured that the local rainfall would provide most of the water we needed, so I wasn’t worried about hauling much water. It didn’t rain much at first, so we loaded up a couple of 30 gallon trash cans with water from our faucet into the back of the 1960 Chevy pickup I had bought for $150. The only problem with this process was that the shocks on the old rust-bucket were absolutely gone, with the result that anytime I turned a corner, the rear end undulated left and right, splashing water over the edge of the cans. But, a worse problem was that every bump in the road, large or small, caused the bed of the truck to bounce violently up and down without those shocks to mitigate the motion. By the time we reached the garden plot most days, fully half of the water was in a trail behind the truck and definitely not in the cans to be siphoned by gravity onto the waiting seeds.
The worst was yet to come. That summer was one of the most severe local droughts in recent history here, with no rainfall to speak of between May and August. Along with the lack of rain, the heat of summer burned up my crops faster than I could haul water. Before my eyes, the garden withered, corn stalks drying up and green beans shriveling on the vines. And, the squash? Well, monster squash take copious amounts of water to mature and that wasn’t happening, so no…I had no answer as we sat at the dinner table with the in-laws and the hands were stretched out to describe the size of what was on the vines. I was beaten and I knew it. I threw in the towel and the garden burned up altogether with no harvest to show for my work at all. I have not planted a garden since.
Thirty years have come and gone now, and I think I’m ready to give it a shot again. This time, the watering hose is twenty feet away from the proposed garden plot; there is adequate shade nearby to retreat to when the wimp in me starts complaining of the hot sun, and best of all? The spot is hidden from the prying eyes of all who would judge and estimate the size of both the plants and the produce from them. I’m not sure you can expect a report, unless it’s a rousing success. Don’t hold your breath.
Does anybody know if it’s possible to hire cheap labor to weed and cultivate a small garden? I’ll be happy to pay in zucchinis and yellow crooknecks…They’re sure to be huge!
“Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there.”
(Gnomologia by Thomas Fuller~British scholar and doctor~1654-1734)
“Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells,
and pretty maids all in a row.”
(English nursery rhyme~c.18th century)