Adventures in Gardening

Moving to Boulder introduced a few new lifestyle ideals, not the least of which was the whole “living organically” and arguably more importantly, “eating locally.” Now, organic produce is expensive, and I have been known to always choose the cheaper of two evils — errr, vegetables — when shopping at the neighborhood grocery. So, unless organic produce is on sale (and yes, sometimes it is), I don’t necessarily seek out the hippie stuff.

Eating locally, on the other hand, intrigues me. Filling my bike basket with a bounty from the farmer’s market feels like both a good deed and also a rite of summer. Not only am I helping out some fellow small business-people, I also get to ride home with my bike boasting a colorful harvest of super-fresh vegetables and flowers (just because). When some well-meaning hippie Boulder-folk suggested I grow my own veggies, I jumped at the chance to take part in the local-est of all local food consumption: eating from my own garden.

As it turns out, I’ve got a black thumb, but I’m also a glutton for punishment and stubborn as all get-out. Put these together, and you have a miserable history of many failed attempts at gardening.

My first year could hardly be called an attempt — I threw a variety of seeds in a pile of old, dry dirt at the bottom of our condo stairs. Not only did this area receive absolutely zero sun, my “garden” also remained severely dehydrated despite my walking by it every day without so much as bothering to dump the remains of my drinking water onto it. Needless to say, I didn’t yield a single bite.

Year two, I was a little more determined. For Gardening Attempt #2, I read up on the needs and wants of seedlings, and promptly dismissed about half of the instructions I discovered, depending on how difficult it would be for me to follow through. I started the seeds indoors, in the window boxes where they would continue to live their lives out on our balcony, and was excited to actually see some pretty exciting growth. However, as soon as I set the boxes out onto our full-sun railing, the tiny little prickly pickles that I had seen growing on my cucumber plants seemed to shrivel up and die overnight.

This year, with my very own backyard, I set out to do the impossible, yet again, and I can’t say I’m too optimistic, despite my very best efforts yet.

Looking out at my wilty grass, I decided that the best way to go about my garden this year would be to build a raised bed, with all new fresh soil (after learning from the failed Gardening Attempt #1). On this past April 1st, I did the best I could with my limited resources and only slightly improving building skills in order to put together a wooden wall the likes of which would in no way be found in the pages of Better Homes and Gardens (or even Pinterest, for that matter). I planned to utilize the fence on two sides to serve as my garden wall both as a way to conserve resources and also just for practical reasons as it sits on the sunniest corner of the lot.

After the wall was built, I set it aside and got to work on the disaster that is our classic-Colorado soil. I had to break through the rock-hard ground literally inch by inch, and tear at weeds that I swear were growling at me in stubborn anger. It was a battle of wills between me and the elements, to be sure. I took many breaks for iced tea and to sit with my cheerful helper in the shade.

For another fun break, I decided to play an April Fool’s joke on my husband and text this photo (courtesy of Google images), and tell him that I was unearthing bodies in the backyard.

It worked like a charm and his reaction made his absence during all of my hard work (he was at a long-planned kayak clinic — really, I didn’t mind!), completely worthwhile. I was given explicit instructions to call the police regarding this possible long-since-missing-person. Olive and I shared a good chuckle at his expense.

And then, after a few more labored hours of digging and posting and filling with dirt, my raised bed was finished.

I excitedly planted a variety of seeds to be cultivated carefully indoors, and which received a slightly-embarassing amount of attention from me over the next few weeks.

But, it paid off! In no, time, our bedroom dresser (the brightest spot of the house), was filled with dozens of tiny little happy seedlings — cucumbers and peppers and okra and basil and cilantro and dill and parsley and tomatoes… You can say I was a proud Momma.

Sadly, however, when the day came for me to transport my little children to the backyard bed that I had so lovingly created for them, the poor little saps just weren’t fit for the move. I don’t know if it was the elements (I waited until the date that all of the articles suggested, but in true Colorado fashion, we had debilitating drought followed by torrential downpour and then some cold snaps), or if their roots just were too fragile, or if it was simply my black thumb striking again, but all we ended up with were a few tiny wisps of spinach giving it a shot, and one single, dead cucumber.

My herbs are struggling along in their individual pots, albeit not as successfully as I had originally thought. I called my mom excitedly telling her how my basil had mysteriously multiplied into all of the other herbs’ pots. Before I could expand on my plans for all of the basil I was apparently cultivating (we would have a never ending supply of pesto and pizza sauce!), my mom broke the news that these little guys were simply weeds. Weeds. Encroaching on my hard work and fooling me into false optimism!

But, like I said, I am a glutton for punishment and also a sucker for a challenge, so I am hereby embarking on what I now refer to as Gardening Attempt 3-b. This time, I bowed to the pressures and I-told-you-so’s and, sigh, purchased some plants. I feel slightly defeated for giving up on my goal to foster a vegetable from seed-form, but I can’t bear to have my hard-earned raised garden sit empty all summer. Luckily, I still have some time left in the summer, so I’m going to try and raise these little foster plants as if they were my own.

Lord help them.


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