CATEGORY: COL Columns (Journal)



Ah, spring, when a young man’s thoughts turn to … gardening?

If it weren’t for the predictions of another freeze earlier this week, there would be vegetable plants growing in my back yard right now. Peas, okra, jalape–o peppers that later in the year will make tacos that will peel the lining off your esophagus, and tomatoes. Forget the Big Boy and Better Boy varieties. I’m going for tomatoes so huge you have to club them first before harvesting otherwise they might eat you. I’m looking for the original Killer Tomatoes, the kind where one tomato will keep an entire Italian village in spaghetti sauce for a week.

But the weather people insisted the temperatures were going to fall below freezing again early this week so I held off on planting my garden last weekend as I normally would after Good Friday. That’s fine because I still haven’t decided what will be in my garden this year. It’s a process that began shortly after the New Year when a warm January afternoon was enough to start you thinking about spring and fresh veggies in the summer. At that point, with the ground frozen so hard you could bounce a comet off it, the imagination tends to run a little wild.

I could envision rows and rows of sweet corn, beans staked up on trellises bending under the weight, heads of lettuce so beautiful even the rabbits wouldn’t spoil them, and watermelons so bloated you’re tempted to offer them a Pamprin. In other words, a truck farm in a 10-foot by 15-foot garden space.

Fortunately, by the time warm weather rolls around, we’ve tempered our garden expectations, usually after a weekend of raking leaves and doing other yard work that requires you to use muscles that have been inactive since the first frost.

But there’s something about (cue the fife and drum) planting that little seed and then watching the little leaves shoosting up out of the soil, to quote Oliver Wendell Douglas of “Green Acres,” who shared my love of gardening and my total inability to actually make it work. I’ve been told that if I ever developed a green thumb it would probably be the result of gangrene, and the doctor would likely have to amputate.

Gardening is kind of like having a child. You raise them up from a single seed, train them in the way to go and then later, when you thought they would be providing for you, you find out they’ve got aphids from hanging out with some low-life privet hedge that got too close to the garden.

Just so the garden doesn’t get boring, at least not in the first month, any time after that and they just become work anyway, I always try to plant something new and different each year. One year it’s a couple of rows of popcorn, the next it’s sunflowers and so on. I look for fun stuff to balance out the veggies and things that are good for you. It’s my way of rebelling against my mother who used to not only make us eat our vegetables but we had to hoe them, pick them and shell them, too. It was kind of like asking a condemned man to go a few miles on a stationary bike that’s connected to the generator that’s going to fry him.

Despite having the garden on my mind since the Super Bowl, I still haven’t decided exactly what this year’s “fun” crop will be, although I do have some definite leanings. Problem is, I can’t find anybody who sells lasagna seeds.

Marty Russell is senior reporter for the Daily Journal.

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