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Garden party

Garden party Garden party

The summer after we moved into our current home, I built a pair of large counter-height raised planters and placed them in an area between my driveway and my neighbor’s yard turning a gravelly patch that was awkward to maintain into a place for a garden.

While there are many things I am good at, I am, at best, a mediocre gardener. This point is driven home whenever I take a walk around my neigborhood and I see the prize winning pumpkins grown a block over or the compact garden of another neighbor whose annual harvest would have kept Washington’s Continental Army fed through the long winter at Valley Forge. By comparison, if my family were to attempt to survive solely on my gardening skills, we would soon perish.

Yet, each spring when the greenhouses begin to open for the season, I get the itch to buy plants and murder them. I never set out with the goal of committing “floracide” but things happen between getting the healthy plants home from the greenhouse and getting them to actually grow in my garden.

I have rigged up elaborate water systems and drip irrigation to address the needs of the plants and have attempted greenhouse covers that get ripped and torn in the wind.

The viney weeds that seem to be the dominate lifeform in my planter boxes like the effort as they proceed to choke the life out my basil, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes. An attempt to grow potatoes one year resulted in a harvest that was spongy and pretty gross. Likewise my attempts at Swiss chard, spinach and broccoli all has mediocre results with the harvest barely enough to feed a small hamster. My loving wife periodically points out the amount I spend buying plants each year and suggests we would be better off buying the produce at the farmers market or buying a CSA share.

I have continued to plug away at my garden each year. The challenge is that I start with the best intentions and stay on top of things for the first few weeks. It is at that point, that things start getting crazy at work with all sorts of summer activities messing with my schedule. Getting up early to weed and putter around with my garden is a nonstarter for me, likewise when I come home after covering events all weekend, all I want to do is veg out for a while and gardening quickly becomes yet another chore.

Over the winter, one of my planter boxes succumbed to the forces of wind, rain and gravity and suffered a catastrophic failure with a support giving way. My son and I are currently in the process of dismantling it, with the hope of being able to make the necessary repairs to reassemble in some form. My son is not optimistic about this endeavor, largely because I put him charge of shoveling the approximately cubic yard of topsoil out of the box so that we could take it apart. Our next step is to wait for a day that we both are home and that it is not raining to lift the remaining parts of the planter and see what is salvageable. Some would take a planter box collapsing catastrophically as a sign to start developing other hobbies. While I am tempted by this, I still find myself lingering at the seed displays at Fourman’s and eyeing up the shiny new lawn tools at Klingbeil’s or placing gardening gloves in my shopping cart at the Medford Cooperative.

Perhaps this year, in place of produce, I will plant some nice hard to kill flowers in the planters and if I can’t bring food to my family’s table, at least I can promote some beauty in my yard. However, knowing my luck, the flowers are likely to attract murder hornets or some other horrifying creature.

My Aunt Elsie lived to be nearly 100 years old. We would visit her home often and she was a favorite relative. She always had beautiful plants in her living room. While in college I went for a visit and discovered her secret was that the plants were high quality fakes and that every few weeks she would change out the baskets or the foil wrapping on the pots to make them look fresh. I am thinking my aunt was on to something and rather than continuing my career in floracide I would be better off creating an artificial garden that will be the envy of everyone who drives by without stopping to look too closely.

Brian Wilson is News Editor at The Star News.