Maybe my shabby little garden in Kent, OH pales in comparison to most midwest cornfields, but I’m proud. Damn proud. So here’s the skinny (and I’m including my ears of corn in that statement): little known fact, I’m an armchair gardener. Meaning I don’t garden but I read about it, look at seed catalogs, roam the aisles at nurseries, and wish I had a green thumb but my thumb tends to be several shades away of green and tends to kill all natural things in its path. It’s a menacing thumb, really. I point to something green and it wilts. Or screams in horror. Or shrivels up into a brown, slimy inedible ball. I have these dreams of moving about my beautiful vegetable garden in overalls (or maybe a cute jean skirt and pink gingham blouse), picking pecks of peppers, testing the tomatoes for ripeness, busheling beans (if that’s what you actually do with beans…I wouldn’t know, I buy them at the grocery).
This year, I had big plans. Last year it was all about the fence but now it was going to be all about being organic. A landscape designer told us the front area of the backyard would be perfect for a garden. This was my chance. Nothing like fucking up your garden in front of all of your neighbors! Woo-hoo!
The first task was pest removal — meaning the dogs. Being Aussies, the girls like patroling the perimeter. You know, just on the offchance some marauding sheep get loose. We dont’ call Macy the Vigilante for nothing. After several ramshackle, failed attempts to keep them out of the soon-to-be garden area, we bit the bullet and went for a permanent solution: more fence (which still needs painting but I’m still in the first stage of fence painting which is denial and I’m just pretending the fence will paint itself).
The fence idea worked perfectly. Except for the fact that early planting season was way over. I was not to be deterred. There was a sunny patch near the garage, outside of the fence that was suitable for a much smaller garden. It would be more Little Sprout than ho ho ho Green Giant. I rationalized that I didn’t want to go overboard the first year anyway. Who was I kidding? I wouldn’t have time to take care of the massive bounty that would grow in the original area so there was nothing wrong with going small. Beyond that, I seemed to have a knack for growing crabgrass because it was overtaking the yard and threatening to devour our house.
I planted some corn, beans, peppers and sunflowers according to the directions on the little seed packets. Oh yeah, I followed them to the letter. Then I pleaded with the seeds to grow. I watered them like a dutiful mother. But the garden goddess (that would be Flora) was against me. We had also decided to put in a backyard patio shortly after I planted (note the short, unpainted fence below). Unbeknownst to me, to install the patio, the contractors needed a Bobcat for digging. And this Bobcat rolled right over my fragile seedlings. The contractors, probably feeling more sorry for me because the seedlings were so shabby, shoved the tattered stalks into a tiny corner. Buh-bye garden of the gods.
I figured all was lost, no more pecking and busheling, no more cute overalls, no more feeding half of Kent. But my little seedlings persevered. When they first started growing, I had no idea what was what since everything was packed in tighter than John Candy’s thighs in spandex. Oh, and because I’d never planted anything before. Soon, things started taking shape in the shabby patch. A few stalks of corn, some green peppers, mini sunflowers, and some basil. Said another way, a mess. Nothing could breathe. The corn was coming in too close together and I figured I’d end up with those mini, pickled ears best eaten in salads or Chinese takeout. I thought maybe the corn would mix with the peppers and maybe, by some miracle, I’d accidently develop a weird hybrid vegetable — a corper or a peporn. Maybe Miss Flora or Mother Nature would deem me worthy of birthing a brand new vegetable. I’d be famous! I’d be swimming in overalls!
I might not have developed a hybrid but my little garden did grow, sans the silver bells and cockle shells. And sans the beans I’d planted. And sans most of the corn and sunflowers. But, I digress.
Tonight for dinner, I ate the first two ears of corn. Small but juicy and ever so tasty. A week ago we chopped up some basil for salsa, and the peppers are almost ready — though I don’t think we have enoug for a peck. The corn may not be as high as an elephant’s eye but who gives a rip about an elephant’s eye anyhow when you’ve got juice dribbling down your chin.
My shabby garden turned out to be not so shabby. It’s actually sort of chic in its shabbiness. Take that, Flora!