adventures in pretending we know what we’re doing, volume 1
In which we decide to build a garden.
Price built me a container bed that runs along our side of the neighbors’ fence. At least, we think the fence is hers, not ours. Primarily we believe this because the fence on the other side of the house looks different, so we assume that one is the other neighbors’.
In case you were wondering, we are “those people” on the street, whose grass always gets a little too high before we mow. (Or really, before he mows, let’s be honest about our use of pronouns.)
Currently there’s a small strip of totally unnecessary earth on the left side of our house, if you’re looking directly at it from the street. I will never understand why they didn’t pave the driveway all the way to the edge of the house. But they didn’t, and weeds grow there, and now the weeds are so tall we can see them through our dining room window.
And so, given our clear propensity toward immaculate yard-keeping, we decided to build a garden.
Because, vegetables, you guys.
Also, it's part of this whole “buying into the Pinterest/American/HGTV dream,” which - by the way - we’re finding out is not really our dream.
But I digress.
And look at apartments by the river in my free time. Because yard work, you guys.
In which we shop for plants.
We don’t do anything without crazy amounts of research (it took me, I kid you not, 3 weeks to choose which brand of baby spoons/cups/plates/bowls to buy for Ellie. 3 weeks. And every time I asked Price for help, he said - it’s ok to do your research. This is a big decision. Agggh.)
Copious research completed, and armed with a diagram of my garden bed with little drawings of each type of vegetable thoughtfully arranged with its ideal companion plants, we entered Home Depot.
And then it happened. I saw all the plants. Then I saw all the seeds.
Price was off doing what he should have been doing, sticking to the list and talking to the crotchety-old-Home-Depot-guy-who-knew-everything-and-knew-instantly-that-we-knew-nothing about the best type of lumber with which to build our raised bed.
But I was greedy, eyes glazed over with the thought of all that I could grow in my little bed. And so I looked down at my sketch, and back at the seeds, and snuck a few extra things in my basket.
In which Price throws away the pumpkins.
The bed is built - wonderfully, I might add, except that we decided to make it longer than originally planned and now it’s only half-finished, but the one half is full of mostly healthy plants, so I consider that a win.
But back on the day we made the bed, I laid out all of the plants and seeds I bought and sorted them with all the companion planting wisdom I could find on Google.
“I think I’ll put the pumpkins on the end,” I said.
“PUMPKINS?” Price asked, incredulously.
“Yeah! Pumpkins!” I said with cheer.
“Do you know how big pumpkins get?” he asked, opening Google on his phone as he spoke. He showed me Google’s response. I shrugged it off, but I felt the pit of embarrassment growing in my stomach.
“Well, pumpkins are good companion plant for corn,” I said with confidence.
“CORN?!?!?!” Price responded, half with amusement, half shaking his head. “What kind of rednecks do you think the neighbors will think we are when they look over the fence and see corn stalks poking up?"
“Cool urban farmers?” I offered.
“No.” was the only response I got.
I continued to work, reading the packets and plant markers, figuring out how far apart they said I should plant each thing, and then over-confidently deciding that surely each plant didn’t need that much space, and figuring I could cram them all together in my little 16x2.5 foot bed.
Then I got to the pumpkin seeds, and raised an eyebrow at the front of the packet which proclaimed in all caps - BIG MAX.
I flipped over the seeds and read - the very thing that I should have done a day earlier at Home Depot, but I didn’t because OHMYGOSHWECANGROWPUMPKINSWHEEEEEEEE, am I right?
“Big Max pumpkins can grow to be 100 lbs!” I read.
And then I laughed until I couldn’t breathe, and handed the packet to Price, who shook his head and threw the packet on the ground.
“No.” He repeated.
I wonder if those pumpkin seeds made it to the landfill, and if one day the paper packet will biodegrade as all paper products do, and if one or two of those little seeds will sprout up amongst all the trash and then some kind landfill employee will look over and see hundred-pound pumpkins growing all around.
Probably not, but it’s kind of fun to think about.
In which I am afraid of the rain.
Later that week, we climb into bed and I hear the rain start to fall - harder and harder and harder.
“Price! What if my plants drown??? They are so small and weak!"
Price: “I’m pretty sure water is good for plants."
I’m very anxious. This seems logical, but it’s just raining SO HARD.
Price: “I don’t know anything about gardening, but I do know that plants need sun and water. I think it will be ok.”
The next morning, the plants are ok. Obviously.
In fact, it rains every day for a week after my little garden is planted, and the plants get bigger and stronger and I think - maybe we can actually do this.
In which we are warned about squash and mint.
Apparently, mint is of the devil.
I don’t even really like mint all that much, but I like mojitos. I also like appearing to others like I know what I’m doing about basically everything, and being able to successful grow herbs (or anything) in my garden seems like one of those things that I would like to be proud of.
And so I planted four types of herbs, based on my taste as well as what the Internet told me about companion planting, but apparently no one on the Internet warned me about mint.
They did warn me about squash, but of course I didn’t listen.
When I excitedly told my mom about everything I planted, she stopped me when I got to mint.
“Mint will take over your garden. Not kidding,” she said. My mom is a successful gardener. In fact, one summer when I was a teenager my parents planted a massive garden in the backyard. My dad planted 30 tomato plants (for real). We gave away tomatoes to everyone we met, all summer long.
“Ok,” I thought.
A week later my mother-in-law, also a successful gardener, came to visit. “Oh that mint,” she said. “You should pull it up now. It will take over your whole garden."
I started to believe them, and for the last three weeks the #1 item on my agenda has been rip up mint, move to container.
Has it happened? Of course not. So maybe the mint will take over, and we will give up gardening forever and just make mojitos every night. And then everyone will come over and drink our mojitos, which is kind of the same thing as giving away tomatoes all summer except that mojitos are better.
My mother-in-law also seemed hesitant about the squash. I planted 4 squash plants, approximately 18-24” apart. This seemed reasonable to me, as I didn’t have room to put them 48” apart like the container suggested, and I assumed at least 2 of them would die.
This was, in fact, the guiding principle of planting my entire garden. At least half of this will die, so I might as well plant as much as I can.
I went out of town for a week and came back, and not only were all 4 squash plants thriving, but they were HUGE.
They are, as I type, brimming with bright yellow squash blossoms. The mint is out of control and I again plan to remove it from the garden this weekend. We’ll see if I get around to it.
My poblano plant and a cheery cherry tomato plant fell over last night in an epic downpour (I knew too much rain was dangerous), so I need to tend to those first if the rain ever stops.
I’m still suspicious of too much rain. I’m rather concerned about the size of my squash plants, and I’m still pretty skeptical that I will get any sort of harvest at all anyway (except for the mint, of course).
But it’s an adventure, and we don’t really know what we’re doing, but I think we will figure it out or at least have fun trying. And that’s kind of what life is all about anyway.