Green thumb missing from garden

Friday, June 10, 2005

Every spring, the same thought process occurs.

First idea: I'm going to plant the most abundant, most organized, most plentiful garden ever. Let's buy three of every variety of plant. I'll can enough food to last my family throughout the winter months. This will be wonderful. (Add the sounds and visuals of Julie Andrews running over the hilltop in "The Sound of Music" and you'll get the picture.)

Second thought: Am I done planting all these seeds and plants yet? Who bought all these things?

Third notion: I sure hope at least one tomato plant survives and maybe a carrot or two.

The conclusion: Let's go out to dinner.

Since I can kill a cactus is less than a week, I know that I don't have a green thumb. It's not even yellow or brown. It's black from all the plants and flowers I have killed over the years, so it should be no surprise that my garden is a struggle each spring.

One look at my canning surplus from last year and you can determine what survives in my garden: Jar after jar after jar of salsa. I've been known to buy tomatoes to round out the nine-variety pepper supply from my garden.

After quickly running out of tomatoes early into winter, my kids learn to dread spaghetti and chili for dinner, because I will grab a jar of salsa (regardless of its heat rating) and use it in the recipe. Every dinner is kicked up a notch from December through May.

At the beginning of the gardening season, my intentions are always good.

My garden was going to have purpose, was going to be precisely plotted. No more crooked rows; a string was used to make every line straight. No more crawling over one plant to get to another; a one-foot walk-way was created around each plant. No more forgetting what I planted; each plant, row and mound was correctly labeled.

Those ideals lasted about 15 minutes.

I quickly ran out of markers to hold the directions. And the markers I had located were soon wandering off in the hands of a two-year-old. While my rows were somewhat straight, I still wasn't sure whether I was pulling a vegetable or a weed. And the mounds were planted closer and closer together as one plant died and I replaced it with a end-of-the-season six-pack, just to ensure that something survived to the harvest.

Organization in the garden had been lost and I had no one to blame except my black thumbs.

My garden has not been a complete disaster this year. I have enough lettuce coming up to feed the entire rabbit population of Red Willow County -- and they're not taking me up on my selection.

I know I have rabbits and other vegetable-eating-small-animals in the garden. One look at the butternut squash plants is enough evidence of that fact. But they are avoiding the rows of lettuce, which are threatening to take over the rest of the garden. Maybe it has something to do with the varieties of lettuce I planted, which resemble the surrounding weeds a little too closely. I avoided the iceberg variety this year and the rabbits are going to have nothing to do with my lettuce crop.

I know I should be happy that at least one vegetable has thrived in my garden, but there is only so much lettuce one person can eat. There's only so much lettuce seven people can eat before there is a mutiny in the household. Plus, I'm pretty sure lettuce doesn't freeze nor can very well.

Lettuce has taken over this year because I purposely avoided last year's most prosperous vegetables: Squash and cucumbers. The jars of relish and dill pickles still fill my shelves. My freezer still holds bags of sliced yellow squash. Like the lettuce, there is only so much squash and cucumbers a person can eat.

Actually, there is one last concept in the gardening though process: I'll be happy with whatever comes up. Now, I'll just have to find a recipe that combines beets, lettuce and tomatoes and maybe throw a few weeds on top just for decoration.

-- Ronda Graff has tried to direct the rabbits in her yard from the pepper plants to the rows of lettuce., but they won't bite -- literally. Maybe they know something she doesn't.

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