21 April 2008


I don't have a green thumb.

I reliably kill plants, be they house plants or herbs, ornamental flowers or practical veggies. Among the talents I possess, growing things just isn't enumerated with my sparkling wit and engaging personality.

That has never stopped me from trying to grow all sorts of things, from tomatoes to African Violets. Memorably, when I was writing for Well Fed a few summers ago, I attempted to grow tomatoes organically, and for my trouble, I was rewarded with two tomatoes (from 6 plants!) that were the size of half-dollar coins. Not exactly the results I was hoping for.

The sole exception to this rule has been bulbs that I purchased from Breck's, tulips, daffodils, and some cute daisy-esque flowers called Grecian Wildflowers. Bulbs couldn't be easier. Plant them in the fall, and come spring, they grow all by themselves. No watering. No weeding. No fertilizing.

When DH and I returned from Florida a few days ago, I was expecting to see the daffodils and tulips in full bloom, because when we left, they were just beginning to poke their heads above the ground. Hold that thought for a moment while we talk about planting some other things.

Last summer, I didn't even attempt hanging baskets, because the depression was too all-consuming, and I couldn't even think about trying to keep plants alive. By the time the meds started working for me and I was back to some semblance of humanity, the summer growing season in Oh-hia-ia was drawing to a close.

Part of the problem is that I always get started too late in the growing season. IF you want to grow your own tomatoes, peppers, herbs, what-have-you, from seeds here in the nawth, you need to start the seeds in trays in February or March in order to be able to harvest in August or September. During those dark days of winter, spring planting just isn't what I'm thinking about.

Predictably, this year is no different. I purchased a bundle of seeds this past weekend, flowers, tomatoes, herbs, cucumbers, even some assorted lettuces. I planted them this past weekend, too. I might be able to harvest the 'maters come October. Maybe.

After my seed-buying spree, I walked the yard around our house, thinking of where I want to plant things.

The sunflowers in a spot of wild overgrowth that the landscaper hacked unmercifully last fall, because it will not regain its former untamed beauty for several years, and sunflowers grow large enough to disguise that blighted spot.

The herbs will mostly go into an herb-box that has three levels and enough space to accommodate all of the herbage I find necessary for cooking: chives (which survived all by themselves despite me over the past three years) parsley, oregano (ditto on the survival of that) dill, cilantro, basil.

Violas, pansies, and dwarf viola at the front door. Daisies and Lavender, both perennials, in spots where color is needed desperately.

Cucumbers, tomatoes, and salad greens don't have a home just yet, but wherever they go, marigolds will go around them to discourage rabbits and raccoons and groundhogs and deer from eating MY food.

It was while looking around the yard that I discovered that the tulips I planted so carefully a few years back have been decimated by the local white-tailed deer population.

Did they eat the run-of-the-mill Apple Blossom Tulips, which range from pale pinks to fire-y reds, and while beautiful, are not costly?

No. No, they did not. Or at least they didn't eat ALL of the Apple Blossom Tulips.

They did, however, eat ALL of the Angelique Tulips, my most prized tulips that garner multiple compliments, and gave me much joy. Even our community's pro landscaper had asked me where they came from, and what they were, admiring them when I spoke to him last spring. As you can imagine, being complimented on growing something with my two not-green thumbs thrilled me.

I hollered and fussed a great deal when I discovered this crime of epic proportions, bitching about the deer to any and everyone that would listen. Saying I was upset about my Angeliques being eaten would be akin to saying that Mt. St. Helens was a small explosion. I hunted on Google for solutions to the cloven hoofed menaces that don't include pesticides or shotguns. (Although I'd LOVE to shoot one or two, or OK, ALL of the deer that ate my tulips, the season for the pests is over, and really, I can't see myself shooting Bambi anyway.)

My online searching led me to several kinds of products that are approved for organic gardening, but since the part of the country where I live isn't exactly the most ecologically enlightened part of the world, my inquiries to local garden centers about these various things resulted in comments from their staff along the lines of, "Lady, we don't carry any of that organic-hippy-tree-hugger crap."

Imagine my surprise, then, when I stopped to pick up seed trays at one garden center and discovered that in fact, they DO carry organic-hippy-tree-hugger crap, called Deer Stopper. Excited, I brought it home. When DH helped me unload the car, he laughed, telling me that I'd bought in to a snake-oil bonanza. I hope not! It was expensive, and I hope to be able to use it to discourage the deer from munching on everything else.

I sprayed some on the remaining Apple Blossom tulips, and then also on the new plantings, hoping to discourage the foraging pests from TOUCHING MY STUFF! Hilariously, it was while I was browsing the pest deterrent section, I found a plastic inflatable snake, very life-like, which is supposed to deter a laundry list of things. Unfortunately, we just don't have diamond-backed rattlesnakes (or any other venous snakes that I am aware of) in this part of the world, so I doubt that any of the pests would recognize the snake as a predator. Other suggested natural remedies, like wind chimes and bright light-reflecting gizzets, just won't work for me, being either a) too noisy for me to tolerate or b) too ugly to put up in my yard.

Also not enumerated among my talents is patience, a vital ingredient for any gardener. The seeds I planted, according to their packaging, will germinate and sprout in anywhere from 3 to 30 days. At that rate, I'll have plants actually in the ground by mid-May at the earliest, and early June at the latest.

On the upside, if I'm able to be patient and careful, I'll have dozens of yummy Brandywine and Hillbilly tomatoes, both heirloom varieties that grow exquisite huge tomatoes, worth waiting for.

No comments: