And so I sit, watching the frost melt on the weed bodies that pass for grass in my front yard. It is a pathetic sight, but not nearly as heart-rending as the look I have going on in the back yard, aka, ďthe garden.Ē
Last year marked the first year we turned under the dandelions and clover to make the area in front of our natural preserve (unmowable area) a garden. After pushing around sixteen yards of expensive dirt, I headily planted delphiniums, geraniums, raspberries, grapes, hollyhocks, poppies, peonies, clematis.
Most of these were pooped or dead by mid-summer, or fodder for the enormous, Stephen King-like watermelon plant that filled my yard and three surrounding counties, producing thousands of little flowers and quite a few dandy watermelons. This plant was so virile not even the tenacious weeds that lurk at gardenís edge dared enter its domain. An entire cat could shadow-bathe under its giant foliage.
When I finally pulled its hugeness up in autumn, the garden reappeared, as dispirited-looking as ever. I had a few hardy life forms still hanging around, but for the most part, it was a plant graveyard. Time for a new approach.
I have decided to populate my garden with baby plants grown by my own hands from inexpensive seeds packages this year. Like many ill-conceived ideas in my life, this one is the result of being exposed to tempting catalogs during critical imprint times.
The garden suppliers got a-holt of me this winter and sent glowing photographs of colorful flowers and luscious giant vegetables as well as the latest in growing technology. My favorite garden aid is something called red mulch: a sheet of red plastic that is supposed to Ė and here is the fun part Ė fool tomato plants into producing more fruit and sturdier limbs.
This got me to wondering. Do tomato plants discuss this intruder in their midst? Which genius plant decides they need to become competitive with a petroleum product? You see why I am attracted to gardening?
This whole scratch method of gardening is new to me, but I feel I am properly equipped for my gardening self-actualization. I have purchased trays of teeny compartments that make seeds feel cozy before they sprout. I found a specialized soil mix calculated to encourage my little seed babies to grow. I even have wooden stakes for labeling the mystery plants as they emerge from the soil.
I almost got that doo-hickey that helps you roll old newspapers into little biodegradable pots that go directly in the ground Ė but then realized that a) Iíd never figure out how to use it Ė I canít manage those flat pieces of cardboard the stores give you at Christmas time that you are supposed to transform into an actual box, for heavenís sake! Ė and b) buying something that would prevent me from buying more little trays in the future goes against my shopping ethic (now thereís an oxymoron. . .)
Iím a little nervous about these obscure references in catalogs to keeping seedling temperatures at a steady warm state and providing full spectrum light. Our house is so cool in the winter the cats try to sleep under the covers with us at night. Our indoor light is severely hampered by a wrap around porch that is delightful in the summer but may be best for growing mushrooms.
I think Iíll just put those trays of dirt and seeds on top of the dryer and leave the fluorescent light on all the time. This means all our clothes will be covered with a fine layer of potting soil until I can plant my plants, but think of the money I am saving by not buying mature plants!
Actually, I havenít even opened the seed packets yet and I may already be too late in the season. Iím not too worried, though. I saved some watermelon seeds from last year. I figure I can just throw them out the window in the general vicinity of the garden and, given their genetic heritage, my garden will look productive for another year.