Archive for Thursday, March 15, 2007

Garden skills limited to picking fruit

From the editor’s desk

March 15, 2007

On the first Sunday of March, I was in a hardware store when a gentleman came in looking for containers to start tomatoes. Wow, I thought, restrain yourself. You're not going to do those plants any good starting them this early.

But then, what do I know? I know tomatoes are planted sometime in the spring, require gallons and gallons of water to survive and produce in Kansas, and start producing eatable fruit sometime in July. My active role in all this is pretty much limited to picking them when they are ripe.

Luckily, because I really like tomatoes, the other half of the household understands the details.

For Laura and others like her, the last few weeks have been like the weeks before Christmas for a 9-year-old and filled with anticipation and delight. She's poured through the seed and plant catalogs to complete her wish list. She's added dahlias for her flower inventory, weighing the advantages of the tomato and pepper varieties she will plant this year.

If the wonderful weather holds, I expect to see her spend a great deal of Saturday and Sunday starting her planting and preparing gardens for the season ahead. If she's not in our yard, she'll be doing the same thing at her parents' yard. She will interrupt my viewing of the NCAA tournament with requests to tote around bags of potting soil, fertilizer and other small chores. That would be a big irritant, but the tournament selection committee has left me with a pox-on-the-whole-thing attitude (don't get me started).

Anyway, Laura will come in after sundown dirty, exhausted and extremely happy.

I don't share her passion for gardening. I don't particularly like it, and I've never had a lot of luck with it. I'm sure there is a direct connection between that attitude and those results.

Because I'm so without a clue, I don't really like to help her with her gardening. I like to understand the end results when I undertake a chore or it just seems like stoop labor, especially when the work always seems to involve a shovel and wheelbarrow. Her gardening books all recommend plotting out gardens on graph paper with areas marked where the plants will go. If Laura does this, I've never seen it. The plans are in her head and give me no clue as to the direction of my labors.

So there's very little in direct contribution I make to the blooms that make the house so striking during six months of the year or the vegetables maturing their way to the table.

But I like to think I haven't been completely worthless. I constructed a garden shed with a roofline that nicely matched that of our 100-year-old house. I built an arbor with a swinging white gate to serve as a display for Laura's roses and clematis. I removed a chain link fence and replaced it with a picket fence we now have to paint every spring. I dug up a switching yard worth of railroad ties some wrong-headed former homeowner buried about the yard.

That, I like to think, provides the frame to the picture she paints every year with her gardening artistry.

Those are my excuses, anyway, as I reap what she sows.

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