Back in my apartment days, I couldn’t wait to finally have a yard to grow a garden. We’ll grow food! We’ll grow amazing amounts of food and save so much money! It will be organic and healthy and meaningful!
We’ve lived here for five years now. Every year I have a garden. Every year I put organic soil and compost and blood and sweat and tears and water and seeds and plants and time into my garden.
Every year only minimal food comes out of the garden.
Yet, every spring I suffer from optimism.
This has been the journey so far…
The first year we built some raised beds, dug way, way down into the dirt and put down gopher netting, stapled it to the bottom of the wood beds and put the soil back, along with a year’s worth of compost and purchased soil.
We planted tomatoes. (We also planted other things but the tomatoes are really the most important, right?)
They grew! They got big! Tomatoes appeared!
Then we went out of town. But we weren’t stupid. Oh no, we hired someone to come to our house every day to feed our cats and to water our precious garden.
Only when we came back a week later:
Everything was dead. Despite her once-a-day watering the plants got fried. It was the hottest week of summer.
So the next year, we were determined to not go out of town when our garden was fragile.
It was going so well! The plants were HUGE! Finally, there was a tomato that was just about ripe. We were almost there! Almost ready to have a real harvest.
I eagerly went out to the garden the next morning:
It was gone. Thieves in the night. I found evidence of tomato bits nearby, as though the culprit plucked it and then sat there snacking away on it. Raccoons? Bunnies? Orcs?
We bought sprays that smelled like rotten eggs. We bought ones that were made with the urine of bobcats and coyotes. We even bought a powder one that was made of blood and spices. Nothing worked. We were just seasoning the tomatoes for them before they ate them.
Fortunately, whatever critter was taking them, didn’t take all of them. I did manage to harvest a handful that year. Not worth the financial/time investment, but at least it was something.
So the third year, I decided to get smart. I stapled chicken wire to the wood of one of the raised beds all the way around. With gopher netting underneath and chicken wire on top, nothing could get in!
All was going so well! We had no evidence of rabbits or raccoons and our plants were safe! We were going to have so many tomatoes this year we’d have to can some!
I couldn’t wait to pick that tomato the next morning. It was almost ready. So close to being perfect.
The next morning I was delighted that it was still there! I picked it.
There was a huge gouge in it. It looked like someone took a bite while still on the vine but left it there.
In a panic, I looked at all the other tomatoes. They were all fine. No bites. Phew.
Except it kept happening. Every single time a tomato was JUST about ripe, the next day there would be a giant hole in it. That was the year I found out it was the birds. You can read all the ridiculous things I tried over there. (Thankfully, someone in the comments mentioned buying bird netting to lay over the top.)
Enter year five. (Actually, it was more like year 4.5 because this was fall for a winter garden.)
I put bird netting over the garden. Nothing was getting in! Nothing!
Now that I had solved all our prior problems I thought I’d save money by using seeds. I read everything about it. I got trays and supplies and positioned them in front of sunny windows. I planted kale and chard and all sorts of great things that would do brilliantly here in fall. I tended those seedlings multiple times a day.
They grew! All big and strong and it was time to transfer them outside.
I amended the soil again and I planted them.
It was so secure.
Finally. It would be so great! We’ll be swimming in kale chips soon!
The next morning, I went out to check on them and water and…
The garden was leveled. In less than 24 hours. There wasn’t a SINGLE piece of green left. Everything was eaten down below the surface of the soil. All those weeks of tending those seedlings and…gone.
I had a few more seedlings in the house that I planted as bait the next night. I went out armed with a flashlight and found…earwigs. Those little stupid brown bugs with pinchers. They ate everything down to a nub.
See, that’s the thing with gardening. Just when I think I have one problem solved, another one comes along. I have no idea why I have such terrible luck with this. And each year I make a vow to never do it again.
Temptation strikes and my mind is once again riddled with optimism disease.
I got a seed catalog last week. I
hate love hate love (ack! I don’t even know how I feel anymore!) seed catalogs. They are the worst, most tricksy catalogs ever.
Sure, a clothing catalog shows some lady wearing a skirt while running through a field of daisies and looking all happy and it is supposed to make you think, “If I own that skirt I’ll be happy and can run through daisies!” But this isn’t completely a marketing lie. It is actually partially true. I really COULD buy the skirt and find a field of daisies to run through while wearing it. Part of the sales story is true. Sure, the happiness part is iffy, but that’s only implied anyway. At least the rest is true.
Seed catalogs though? LIES. It’s all lies. These are the lies that fuel my optimism. They don’t show you pictures of the actual seeds, do they? No. They show you pictures of the most amazingly healthy and colorful vegetables. You see them and think, “If I buy this, I too can have an amazingly healthy and colorful vegetable bounty.” Except you don’t get vegetables. You just get seeds. You are only getting potential vegetables. Imaginary vegetables. Vegetables that will most likely never exist for you.
But I love them. Hate them. Whatever.
And I’m currently planning a garden for spring.
Because, well, you know.
We’ll grow food! We’ll grow amazing amounts of food and save so much money! It will be organic and healthy and meaningful!