MARTY RUSSELL:When it comes to gardening, have a hort

If spring has sprung then why am I still wearing long underwear and throwing an extra cat on the bed at night? My wife, like I suspect a lot of people in this neck of the woods, jumped the gun again this year when that first, deceptive stretch of warm days hit a week or so ago. She went out and bought some flowers to plant, picked out the perfect spots for them and carefully dug holes and lowered the plants into the ground. Then, just days later, she was scrambling for plastic bags to cover her delicate new plants when the thermometer suddenly took a nose dive.
It’s hard to know when to start planting here in the South where the temperatures can go from a balmy 80 degrees one day to a hard freeze the next. I’ve always held that you shouldn’t plant anything around here until July, not because you can be assured that the cold snaps have ended but because it’s too darn hot outside by then to be planting anything which makes for a perfect excuse not to.
That’s not to say I don’t have a green thumb. I do. And I should probably have it looked at. I think it might be gangrene. I’m also a great horticulturalist. I can grow horts all day long. Prize ones, too. Since no one knows what a hort is or looks like, I think I’m safe in making that claim.
But a lot of people are considering growing gardens this year as a result of the economy. If they’re like me when it comes to growing things, they’ll all starve.
To me there are three stages in growing a garden. The first is denial or possibly insanity, the definition of which is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. Suddenly we become oblivious to our past failures in attempting to grow anything other than debt and think we have somehow, as a result of being cooped up in the house for months, been given the ability to make stuff shoot up out of the ground and prosper.
The second stage is second thoughts. This stage usually begins around the time both the temperature and the humidity first climb into the 90s and the garden needs weeding and
watering. This is also about the time the first fruits of your labor begin to appear on your plants and you realize they look less like something the Jolly Green Giant grew and more like something produced by the Cantakerous Brown Garden Gnome.
The final stage, of course, is defeat and deceit. You know your dried up, shriveled plants are never going to produce anything other than mulch but you’re not going to let your neighbors, with their splendid, green tomato plants drooping with fruit, find out. So you go down to the grocery store and plop down full price for some healthy, red tomatoes and then hang them from your plants like Christmas ornaments.
Just be careful you don’t run into your neighbor doing the same thing.

Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by e-mail at marusse1@olemiss.edu.

Marty Russell