Garden Envy

For some reason (I suspect bad karma from letting too many tomatoes go bad in the fridge last summer), my winter garden has not…well, it hasn’t anything. It looks like a few scrawny seedlings propped up in the ground, even though I sowed the seeds in November. After talking with a few other gardener friends (amateur and seasoned alike), I still have no clue what I did wrong, although I suspect I planted those seeds too late. It was hard to decide, though! Even October felt like summer on some days, and the seed packets were very clear: plant seeds when the soil is no longer warm.

Which takes me to a tangential rant, because sometimes those instructions say, “Plant 3 to 4 weeks before last frost…” What am I, a fortune teller? Should I dig up my old Magic 8 Ball? I don’t know when the last frost will be.  I live in central California – maybe our last frost was five weeks ago! Should I have been planting these suckers in December? (I just used this online Magic 8 Ball and asked it, “When is the last frost?” and it said, “Most likely.” Enough said. Really.)

But back to my main story: my lettuces wouldn’t even feed a slug, they’re so pathetically small. When I planted them, I was ever so careful to use the seed starter soil, then place the seeds an exact eighth of an inch from the surface, covering them lightly, after which I gently sprayed them with water from a spray bottle. Thinking Z would enjoy getting in on a little gardening action, I told her a large pot was hers to use. I gave her some seeds, told her to go to town. Okay, fine, I hovered, made sure she didn’t put them all in one spot, and I controlled the watering lest she water only herself (and this in November, when it was cold. Cold-ish).

I think this pictorial comparison really says it all, and I could have dispensed with the longwinded commentary and given you this:

Z’s lettuces on left…my pitiful lettuces on the right. You might need to magnify this picture to actually see mine.

Death in the Long Grass

This is a book by Peter H. Capstick, which, I confess, I’ve never read, although my father and younger brother both love it. No, in my mind it isn’t so much a title, but a spooky chant that echoes in my head every time I step into the back yard.

Death in the long grass, death in the long grass, death in the long grass…

Because the Ever-Suffering Mother does not have enough to do with ignoring all the housework, it is also her responsibility to ignore the yard. I would offer photographs depicting the effects of such negligence, but it is far too embarrassing.

While day-to-day yard maintenance such as lawn-mowing, leaf-raking, and porch-sweeping/de-cobwebbing suffers (and brings down property values within the immediate neighborhood), gardening is no problem at all. Give the Ever-Suffering Mother some seeds, soil, and a spade and within a few months she will give you vegetables. (Quite literally. The garbage truck driver got to take home a couple of tomatoes today.)

In fact, the success of the tomato plants in the back yard caused all manner of problems. They overstepped their boundaries. They piled over the tops of their cages like uneven, green, toppling wedding cakes. And then, then they began their pilgrimage across the lawn. I just let them drift. [Internal editor: that’s a point-of-view shift. You had been talking about yourself in third person. Me: Now I’m talking to you/myself in second person. Internal editor: throws hands in air, gives up. Me: Yeah, that’s right.]

Fast-forward a couple of months, and the tomato plants have overtaken that side of the yard.

Last week I finally hacked my way through the jungle. I wasn’t going to clip the plants completely back, as there were still a few lingering green tomatoes, but when I saw what the jungle had done to my grass (think swamp), and when I saw the fat brown slugs masticating their way through that swamp, I got a little carried away. The only reason the three plants are still in the ground is because the yard waste bin and the compost pile were overflowing.

Z was thrilled because she finally got to “break the rule” and pick all those green tomatoes.

Don’t worry, we’ve still got ten or so tomato plants in the side yard…inching their way across the long, long grass.

Lettuce Have a Moment of Silence

Not for anything you know, like, serious. My winter garden is far, far past its prime, and I’ve got to tear up the lingerers.

The Few, the Proud, the Romaine

The sad thing: I don’t know if you can see the little reddish bits in the background, but those are my red-leaf lettuce seedlings, looking super-scrumptious. But I just learned that lettuce doesn’t do well here in summer, and it’s hard to learn that something I’ve nurtured might not thrive. (Like my first novel. But when I actually think about that one, all I really feel is relief.)

But so much that I grow does thrive. I’ve got more tomato plants than the fields down the road (this is an exaggeration. Sort of), and carrots doing their carrot thing below the soil, and strawberries sunflowers and anything else I can make room for. It’s work, but it’s fun work. And Z loves the strawberries. Sometimes a little too early.

Mother’s Day is Sunday (in case you’ve been hiding under a rock and haven’t noticed all the cards, flowers, and the bombardment of advertisements thrown at you in every medium). I’m looking forward to having Saturday off, and then Sunday to enjoy my family. And yes, I’m hoping for a present. A little material recognition of how well I take care of Z, and how I keep our house tidy and the dishes done (okay, maybe not those last two).

At the same time I’m really grateful for Z. Sure she can be an Unholy Terror of Screaming Proportions. But she makes me laugh all the time. I’d get her a present in honor of Mother’s Day…except it would just be another thing for me to avoid picking up when I don’t clean the house.

Sequoia Weeds

As promised, a photo of my mini-garden. It is confined to planter boxes for the time being, but we have plans to expand into the back lawn.

Hello salad!

That’s the flattering angle of my “garden.” From the other direction, scary. The arugula is just screaming for attention–it’s in the far planter, crowded, insisting on space, and stealing it from the stunted beets and the three sickly soybean plants.

At dinner last night I asked Husband if he thought it was the coolest thing in the world that I can step into the back yard and “pick” our salad just before we eat it. For him, the novelty wore off after the first night. For me, it never gets old. I look at the bright green things in my salad bowl and just marvel at how these used to be tiny seeds. I have loved them. Like a proud parent, I even made phone calls to friends and family when they sprouted.

I’ve been spending so much of my attention on these two planter boxes (and the failed experiments of container lettuce) that I neglected the front and side yards. Now they are SCARY.

Monster Weed

I don’t think this photo can really get my point across. This is only a small cross-section of one-eighth of the tree-sized weed growing in the side yard. It’s–really–big. Well, it was. And it has friends–many friends. And it had these prickly leaves (hence the heavy work gloves…oh, who am I kidding–I’m freaked out about spiders and all kinds of bugs and always wear gloves when I work in the yard).

The gardening stuff gives me something else to think about. This week had a downer (the agent formerly interested in Savage Autumn sent an impersonal r e j e c t i o n letter), and an upper (SA made it into the second round of the ABNA contest). And I’m starting to really think about the next book, which is so much fun, but my brain needs a break sometimes, and it needs to get outside.

Well, the sequel to The Hunger Games awaits. So glad the weekend starts tomorrow!