Friday, January 23, 2009


When I received quizzical looks of disbelief upon telling people that I was going to start a garden (and not just a garden, but the biggest, most varied, most colorful vegetable and herb gardens this side of the Mississippi, and in a dwarf apartment complex lot no less) I was not insulted.

Admittedly, in the past, I have shown neither inclination nor talent for the fine art of growing things.

Growing up under the watchful eye of two avid landscapers and gardeners was difficult for the indoorsy kind of kid that I was. It always seemed like in the hottest part of summer, when I was most prepared to lounge around in the air conditioning and read a Stephen King book, my parents had other ideas. Like their parents and their parents' parents, they saw us kids for what we were - cheap manual laborers in desperate need of some sunshine and exercise and character. So to the flowerbeds we went.

I hated it. I hated weeding beds, I hated repotting flowers, I hated rotating the sprinklers, I hated grubs, I hated getting dirt under my nails, I hated squatting in the scorching Alabama sun all afternoon.

This disdain for the gardening world followed me into young adulthood. While I successfully raised dogs, cats, fish, and even nine orphaned baby opossums, I slaughtered a succession of houseplants with the efficiency of a serial killer. Any attempt at nurturing behavior from me sparked deep-seated and irreversible neuroses in my plants. If I watered them, they languished. If I didn't water them, I was the proud owner of beautifully potted sticks within a 48 hour period.

I always blamed this on the houseplants, which just glared (do houseplants glare?) at me from the corner, looking like little green lepers. Really, the problem was mine. I was not attentive enough. I did not see the plants for what they were - living, sentient creatures just like I am.

So this garden is partially a penance, partially a lifestyle change. I am really interested in sustainable living and the "back to the land" movement. I hope eventually to move out onto my own land outside of city limits and run my own ecologically responsible small-scale farm (mostly for self-consumption, but in my most heady dreams I supply gourmet chefs and speciality markets with the best chocolate bell peppers and pink tomatoes and neon green Romanesco Veronica in town).

This conversion from Black Thumb philosophy is not just about the perfect bell pepper or my own wide selection of cooking herbs. It's about learning a new way of life through trial and error.

Mostly error.

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