The Frustrated Gardener
By Judy Conlin
I have an innate desire to grow things. My grandfather came from Italy, and he could grow anything. When we used to visit him, we came home loaded down with fresh produce from his garden.
His orchards were fantastic, and he grafted trees so that one tree bore many kinds of fruit. His vineyards were a joy to behold. I am sure my DNA inherited from him is why I have this crazy urge to garden when spring rolls around.
Unfortunately, the rest of my DNA did not give me his patience or talent to be a gardener. I cannot dig deep enough in the hard clay to give my plants a real chance. The birds gobble up my seeds almost as fast as I plant them. On top of that I live in the woods where sunlight is at a bare minimum. Any seedling spared by the birds and not uprooted by the squirrels’ nut-burying activities has to struggle to find solar power. Worst of all, I live with that selfish alter ego of mine, Nurse Judy. She could care less about my gardening efforts. She spends hours working on her appearance and has me chauffeuring her hither and yon looking for her foolish over-decorated fashion pieces and accessories.
This takes huge chunks of time that should be devoted to watering and weeding. My plants wither and die from neglect. I complain to Nurse Judy about my gardening problems, and I am not shy about letting her know that she is one of those problems. She doesn’t bat an eye. “Stop complaining,” she says. “You need to be a container gardener.” “How will that help?” I ask. “I’ll still have the same problems.” She eyes me with disgust. “Have you no vision?” she asks. “You can dig deep in containers when you plant your seeds. You can carry the container to sunny areas, changing its placement as the day progresses. You can bring the pots into the screened-in porches when critters are present. With the constant activity of moving the containers, you can’t possibly forget to water them.”
I am wary of her advice, but this does sound sensible and doable. I buy a container that already has a tomato plant with 40 little heart-shaped green tomatoes on it. I feel empowered as I carry it to the one sunny spot available at that time. I sprinkle water on it. “Good job,” Nurse Judy shouts. “Now we can take a few minutes to run downtown and get some lace for my new undies before the sun moves behind the trees.”
I agree to the mission, which takes longer than a few minutes. We return home with lace, bows, rickrack and rosettes. I wonder who is going to see those underwear. I run to my plant – now completely in the shade. It has six leaves and four tiny tomatoes on it. “Somebody ate my plant!” I cry. “Oh, it will come back,” Nurse Judy says, nonchalantly.
That was two weeks ago. I have been carrying that plant in and out of the porch and in and out of the sunlight dozens of times each day, and it still has six leaves and four tiny tomatoes. One tomato is turning pink. My knees and my back are aching from all this effort, but I’m determined to harvest this crop. Then we will have a celebration with two friends. Each of us can have one tiny tomato and Nurse Judy can wear her fancy new bloomers. As I rub liniment on my knees and back, I will entertain our guests with the story of how those bloomers caused the loss of 36 tiny tomatoes.