Gardening is harder than it looks. It’s not exactly like I had expected the ground to magically turn into a Pez dispenser for food or anything like that. I knew there would be some work involved.
And there has been. I have very little space. My property is small and the back is more or less a wildlife preserve. My house backs up to a seven acre kudzu-covered field with woods behind that. The house is only about 50 yards from Main Street and I can see the old town hall from my front yard but it doesn’t matter. I might as well be 50 miles from civilization. Deer regularly romp around back there, bunnies run rampant and the kudzu field is home to some insanely huge groundhogs what with it being illegal to shoot guns in the town limits. Some of them are bigger than cocker spaniels and look to be about waist-high when they stand up on their hind legs. They already come up into the yard when persimmons ripen on the tree in the backyard. So I knew a vegetable garden back there would be nothing more than a 24-hour groundhog, deer and bunny buffet.
So a few years ago, I began to wonder if I dared plant vegetables in the front. It isn’t legal in a lot of towns and i wasn’t sure about the rules where I live. There are websites devoted to camouflaging edible plants into your landscape so that they are not noticeable. That looked like a lot of trouble with very little payoff.
I checked the town ordinances and couldn’t find anything. So this spring I built four square raised beds and painted them white. Placed them in a square set on the diagonal and mulched paths with containers for herbs in between them and convinced myself it was very Versailles. At some point, I plan to switch out the center container for a small fountain and make it even snazzier.
Of course, by the time all this was done, it was about a month and a half late to get the plants I had started from seed into the ground and they were completely root bound.
But I chucked the root bound plants into my newly purchased soil, carefully transported from Lowes by the bagful in the trunk of my Corolla, and mixed according to the same recipe I had used with such success in Brooklyn 25 years before.
And nothing happened. I watered a lot and it rained a lot and the sun shined a lot but nothing happened. Some of the flowers I had planted to confuse the issue about the purpose of the garden flowered but they didn’t grow either. Nothing grew. But nothing died. Everything just sat there.
The tomato plants I had given to my Mom when my beds weren’t ready for planting were growing. But not mine. I knew Mom used Miracle-Gro but I had wanted organic veggies. That’s one of the main reasons I had been so eager to go to all this trouble.
I finally couldn’t stand it any longer and bought some Miracle-Gro, hooked it to the hose and sprayed the crap out of everything. I know. It was heartbreaking. I have destroyed the organic-ness of the beds for seven years. But I was weak. I wanted at least one tomato, a single eggplant, something. Anything. So I used the Miracle-Gro.
And, lo, the garden began to grow.
Then about two weeks ago when the garden had grown enough that it looked like I might actually need to stake the tomatoes, I came out of the house on a Saturday afternoon and there was a baby groundhog nibbling the leaves off of a poblano pepper plant. Well, he looked like a baby to me. But maybe, that’s just the size they’re supposed to be. He seemed to favor the lower leaves and left the top ones in a sort of topknot that made each pepper plant look like a tiny coconut palm. When I thought about it later, I realized this must not be his first visit to the buffet as some of the pepper plants already had curiously bare stalks before that day but I didn’t know enough to figure out what the problem was.
I screamed and yelled at the little varmint and he scurried away. But not around back to the kudzu field. He ran to the vacant house next door and slipped under the side porch. Krikey, junior had moved out on his own and found himself an efficiency flat 30 feet away from my garden, aka his own private lunch buffet.
The next day I came out of the house at about the same time and there was the little scrounger again. This time, seeing as most of the peppers were denuded of leaves, he was daintily munching the last of the leaves off the marigolds, leaving only the big yellow pompom flowers at the end of each stem. And I thought marigolds were supposed to repel pests. Apparently, not this pest.
But what Junior did not know was that I had left out the water hose stretched across the front yard in the warm sun with the nozzle by the front porch set on “jet stream.” I picked it up, pointed it at the hungry critter and let ‘er rip. He went bouncing head over heels half way to the house next door in a jet stream of hot water, and by the time he was out of range of the water jet, he was going at a full run. With me whooping and hollering like a madman behind him.
Afterward, I put a shiny, reflective aluminum waste basket at the edge of the garden facing his front door and am hoping for the best.
Gardening in Brooklyn left me woefully unprepared for this. Now I have pepper plants that look like coconut palms and marigolds straight off a page out of Dr. Seuss. Dare I ask, what’s next?
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.