Spring is here and something primitive stirs the blood – the urge to dig and plant, to renew and revive the earth. Several years ago when we first moved to the suburbs, we dreamed of tilling the soil, producing crops, and becoming weekend farmers.
Never mind that we had grown up as city kids and didn’t know a whit about growing anything expect, perhaps, a tomato plant or two in a flowerbed. This was it, our time to find our roots, get back to nature.
The lot beside our house was plowed, and the smell of fresh earth stirred our planting instincts even further. We visited local garden stores and selected seedlings and envelopes of seeds with colorful pictures of fresh vegetables. We fanaticized about the bountiful veggies we would soon be growing.
But now that we had the seeds, what did we do with them? Well, we did what any city kid would do. We bought a book on how to garden. “Use string to keep the rows straight said the book,” so we did. Use this kind of fertilizer for this plant and that kind for another. We went back to the store and searched endlessly for exactly the right fertilizers.
If the book said to plant six inches apart, we got the ruler and measured. If the book said to use stakes for the plants, we bought stakes. One of us read the book while the other planted. Then we marked the rows so we would know what was planted and waited.
It was a wet spring and shortly thereafter plants began to appear and grow. Oh, boy, did they grow! Why not, we did everything by the book. The lettuce appeared first, lush and green. Saturdays became consumed by the garden. As the vegetables grew, so did the weeds. We fought weeds and grass until our hands and knees were blistered.
The plants continued to grow, blossoms appeared, then tiny fruits. Insects found them before we did. Each plant seems to attract a pest of its own. How did they all find our garden? Cutworms found the tomatoes, beetles found the potatoes, and moths found the cabbage. Back to the store to buy insecticides and sprays.
My back ached from picking rows of beans and my face was sunburned. The tomatoes began to ripen. We picked tomatoes by the bucketful. We gave tomatoes away, we made everything we could think of with tomatoes, and still we had tomatoes. We were almost thankful when the blackbirds ate the corn. It gave us time to make a few pickles from the cucumbers.
We fought bumblebees for every pole bean, and the summer squash vines went wild. Worst of all was zucchini. No one told us about zucchini, not even the book. They grew faster than we could pick them. One day they were a blossom, the next day a watermelon-size gourd. We could only carry two at the time, one under each arm. I was afraid to go to sleep at night, afraid the vines would cover the house.
The endless hours of sweat in the hot sun were not nearly as much fun as we had anticipated. By the time we finished buying plants, seeds, fertilizers, insecticides, tools, jars to can, containers to freeze, and books to tell us how, we wondered if we really needed fresh vegetables.
We eventually abandoned our sweat and blisters, and returned to the supermarket, admitting we were not cut out for country life. But whenever spring comes, I am still reminded by the warm sun and smell of soil. My blood still stirs with the urge to plant and grow.
Only the fear of giant zucchinis saves me.
Have you ever had a vegetable garden? Tell me how yours turned out.