Gardening for the Vegetable Impaired
by Patricia Draznin

My husband and I have that certain kind of gardening savvy that gives us the ability to water houseplants, sometimes without killing them. Recently we moved to a country home surrounded by shrubs and flowers that all looked hearty enough to take care of themselves. Little did we know they would need care, the kind that approaches legal custody, involving watering, mulching, feeding, burping, and driving to soccer practice.

Our first spring, a neighbor pointed out that the reason our flowerbeds were so green was because they were covered in weeds. And then he said—getta loada this—we should rip the weeds out. What? Stick my hands in dirt? Sit on the ground? I don’t think so. It’s not that I mind the outdoors. I’ve gone out there plenty of times. But it’s hot. And dirty. And there are grasshoppers the size of my husband’s Miata. Anyway, I don’t have time during the day, and everyone knows that evenings are for HBO.

Besides, I tried weeding once and I won’t be doing that again. I spent a whole Sunday prying up eight dandelions with a crowbar. As I hauled them away I could hear the new ones laughing underground as they prepared to attack at dawn.

The previous owner had started a vegetable garden and suggested we try planting a few crops. Moi? I’m the one who thinks apples grow in the produce aisle with those little stickers on them. But my husband heard the Call of the Broccoli. He enrolled us in a remedial workshop, “Gardening for Sports Car Drivers,” where we learned how to spend 30 hours a week growing $8 worth of food. We learned how to mulch, which involves smothering your weeds into submission with straw, cardboard or National Enquirers. We learned how to compost, which requires dumping your leftovers outside—which is not the way I was raised. And we learned to use the right gardening tools, such as the Glaser 7” Colinear Hoe patented by Elliot Coleman, the man who invented vegetables.

We spent the summer putting all that knowledge to use, like trying to remember to call the dirt in our garden “soil.” But the problem with gardening is that you can’t always tell the weeds from the food. We ate salads all summer and God only knows what was in them. And another thing: vegetables are such demanding little life forms. There’s way too much pressure to pick something and eat it just because it’s ripe. And it’s hot out there, and soil-y. So our Big Boy tomatoes started hitting the ground face-first. And the Curly kale went to Hell, or as our gardening teacher says, to Seed.

Two years later we have come a really long way. Our flowerbeds are weeded and watered. Our lawn is groomed. Our apple trees are pruned and bearing fruit. And our fine garden vegetables get harvested regularly. All it took was a little time, care, patience, and dedication to weeding through the Yellow Pages to find just the right gardener. 

Copyright 2003 Patricia Draznin


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