I love the hopefulness of gardening but despise the tending.
In a life full of half-hearted attempts to do things that other people do that seem to make them happy, gardening is the worst. It’s the exhilaration and the incredible crash that damage me every year. Summer starts with so many signs of hope: buying plants and a new watering can, ordering a Victory Garden set-up for the backyard, repotting last year’s geraniums on an old picnic table so piled with old pots and new dirt that it looks as if its owner might be a gardener. No.
This afternoon, I picked my way through the day lilies that have grown wild and frantic trying to reach the sun which is obscured by a giant buckthorn that we talk about cutting down every year but don’t. In the Victory Garden box where I planted beans, kale, peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes, a single tomato plant, following the lead of the day lilies, has become gargantuan in its search for sunlight while the tiny pepper plants at the other end of the box, shaded most of the day, are the same size as the day they were planted.
Because the giant tomato plant is now shading other plants, I snap off one of its huge inch thick branches and heave it into the no-man’s land behind our garage. It felt like an amputation or a punishment, not sure which. The plant was out of control; it was my job to wrestle it into conformance with the original plan. But that job is beyond me so I snapped the branch and then looked for crops.
Amazed, I found little beans. I picked one. I wanted to take a picture of it and put it on Facebook. “Our crop” I’d say.
There were peppers, little jalapenos; green, smooth, they were darling. An abundance. Maybe two or three. There was no zucchini, possibly the easiest thing in the universe to grow, despite the vine seeming ready to crawl up my body and strangle me. My garden is no place to be in flip flops. It is a wild, scary place. Maurice Sendak would be happy there. Not me, it makes me crazy.
In our front yard is a wooden sign the Victory Garden folks put up that says “I pledge to grow more food.”
Why did I fall for that? What if someone stops by and wants to see the food I’ve grown? Should I take them in the back to sit in the shade of the grotesque tomato plant, hand them a small smooth jalapeno pepper to stroke, feed them a single bean?
I don’t mourn over the failure of my garden. My excitement and exuberance about the whole proposition disappeared almost immediately, my happy farmer girl feelings turned to hatred and I wondered if I would even muster the energy to water it. This has happened before – I’ll buy a gorgeous plant and then start feeling a deepening resentment about the demands it places on me, you know, the watering and fertilizing. Incessant harpies, my plants.
So I think instead of a pledge to grow more food, I’m just going to make more money. It means I’ll have to give up my plans to can all those beans.