Diary of a Gardening Fiasco

Our gourdermelon!

The garden of 2015 was the first garden that I had in about 10+ years.  It was a struggle from day one.  To begin with, I have fibromyalgia with peripheral nerve pain. Almost every day is a struggle for me whether I garden or not.  Some days are worse than others, and I tend to slip into depression sometimes because of my situation.  This garden definitely sent me there.

It was not hard for me to find a farmer to break the ground for my garden.  And, seeing that big combine plowing my little patch of ground was fun to watch.  That day I added driving a combine to my bucket list. Plus, it only cost me $20.00. There is no way I would pass that up.  Breaking the ground was still hard, but not as hard as it would have been without it.

The weather was so harsh that my garden began failing almost before it had a chance to start. I tried everything to save it.

From the beginning, I easily found someone to give me permission to get a load of turkey done to add richness to the virgin soil in my garden because it was the first time that a garden was planted where I put it.  There are turkey farms all around the area that I live in. The real problem was getting someone with a truck to help me collect it. Of course, no one wanted to shovel poo much less put it in their truck.  I even had a huge tarp for the floor of the truck bed and I offered to wash the truck.  When I finally found someone that agreed to help and they found time to get to my house to help me, the crap was gone, literally gone. The farmer said he thought I had already gotten some. They spread it on the fields around here.  Oh well, I chalked that one up to future resources.  And, the farmer was a really nice guy.  It is good to find nice people.

I even collected soil samples and had it evaluated so that I could get the right balance in the soil for my plants to thrive. Ironically, one end of my garden is very different from the other so taking the time to do the soil tests was worth it. The local hardware store did the test for free.  Country folk are still good people.

I had so much of myself wrapped up in every inch of this garden plot.  I guess this patch became my art of choice for that summer.  I am a multi-medium artist.  I put my whole self into almost everything I do, especially my art.

I quickly came to realize that this garden, for me, was not about how many tomatoes I got out of it.  This is why I felt defeated when things began to go wrong.  I took it personally even when friends and family were telling me that everybody’s gardens were having the same issues.  My Sister, Cassondra, came to my house and noted how beautiful my garden was.  I did not agree with her. It is amazing how lush weeds can make a garden look.  I grew beautiful sun dried tomatoes.  

It was hard work and my children and grandchildren bailed on me after about a week or two. I still appreciated every second that they helped me.  It was good family time.  I knew it would be hard for them to come back and help too much. They had lives to return too. One of my grands, Baylee, told her mom that she would be glad when this garden thing was done. My daughter laughed and told her that would not happening for a long time. She knows now.  My youngest grand, Mason, planted watermelons. He seemed to really enjoy the garden. I explained to him that each of the plants had feelings and needed to be talked to just as much as they needed watering.  I would walk outside or look out and see him with my cellphone recording himself talking to the plants one by one.  Watching him made the whole venture worth it.

After a few weeks, the continuous hoeing and pulling of weeds really started taking a toll on me. I took some time off to rest and to get caught up on some things that had been neglected and to consider my options. A day or so later, I returned to my garden not to work, but to sit in it and just let it speak to me. I was so excited to hear what it had to say. It had to say a lot because I considered walking away, but the bonding time was worth it because I decided to stay with it. I, unfortunately, am not the walking away type of person.

My garden expressed to me a need to retain water even though we kind of had a lot of rain, but shortly after a miserable storm blew through soaring temperatures set about drawing the water right back out of the ground. My plants pretty much existed in a state of shock all season long.  To fix this problem,  I put newspaper around my plants to hold the water in the soil.  I used to do that a long time ago in Maryland. It is a good idea because it not only holds the water in the ground, it smothers weeds. The paper also composts right back into the ground after the growing season ends. Do not use colored paper only the black and white pages.  Color paper does no compost as easily as the black and white pages do.  My goal was not to hurt the ground I only wanted to help it. Putting down the paper was not an easy task. I had started doing this from the beginning, but I stopped after a while.  Trust me it is easier to do it from the beginning. I tried watering every other day excluding the storm days.  I did not want to drown my little friends.

With my chronic pain and in order to keep the really resilient weeds under control, I ended up sitting on the ground while hoeing.  It looked silly, but it got the job done.  I found out later in the summer that my maternal grandmother, my mother and one of her sisters did the same thing for the same reason.

I also began to have a problem with my skin getting weird blisters from the sunlight, not sunburn blistering but something different. I have a fair/med skin tone. I have had many sunburns and this was different. It was almost like I was allergic to the sun. It is hard to explain. The heat outside became so harsh that I decided to do my gardening by the moonlight.  It was a great plan.

I really enjoyed night gardening. There seemed to be a sacred silence that came with the night. I am a night person anyway.  I usually sleep in the day. Over time, I seem to have lost connection with “normal” sleep patterns.

One of my favorite night gardening stories involves three teenage boys who were out for a summer, night stroll.  They breezed right past me on their way into town. I am actually the last house going out of town. I felt certain that they were not supposed to be out at about 2 or 3 am.  I did not say anything.  They went on their way. I was kind of blocked by a line of trees that run along the perimeter of my property.  It was pretty dark too.   A short time later they were coming back, but this time they had cigarettes. I assumed that this was the reason for the night walk.  As they ventured closer to me, one of the lads looked up and saw me. He began screaming and jumping on the guy next to him. That guy did the same to the guy next to him. They were screaming like little girls.

Bean Patch

I am positive that they thought they saw a ghost.  I peed myself laughing at them.  It was fine because it was time for me to go in anyway.  It is still super funny to me. I never saw them doing any other night strolls after that night.

Most nights there was one other night dweller out in the neighborhood. I do not know whom it was, but he or she rode a riding mower late at night, almost all night long. It seemed that whomever he or she was there was a need to mow the entire neighborhood before daylight.  This did not seem to interfere with the night sounds. He became one of the most important sounds because I felt that we shared a kinship.

My night gardening usually ended when the cool summer morning dew came through misting the morning glories, wafting her sweet purple essence throughout the garden. I would smell her mist coming and start yawning and stretching toward my bed.  

My, Mason, 5 years old, helped my by planting whole bags of seeds in one hole.  He so proud of helping me plant that I couldn’t do anything but give him big hugs and tickles of instructions. We never knew what was going to pop up or where to expect to find things growing. My son found rutabagas and okra growing just outside of my garage.  He lives in Maryland and did not know Mason’s planting habits. Some not familiar with the way okra plants look thought I was growing Marijuana right out In the open. Well, if I did grow them, I would do it out in the open. I knew what people would think if they see the plants growing there. It made for a great conversation starter. Plus, it was funny to laugh quietly when people were overheard whispering about it. I think that I cut more okra from that little patch than I did the whole of my garden.

Throughout our hot, miserable and sweltering summer, we ate tomatoes, banana peppers, watermelons, and cantaloupe. We had a short run on cucumbers, eggplant, and gourdes. Lastly we had sweet potatoes.

One night after I went to bed, I woke up to a garden devoid of all green leaves. The cicadas literally ate every bit of green.  It was another garden fiasco. I thought for sure that they would all die.  But, to my relief, they did not all die.  They decreased the amount of output because they no longer had the leaves to bring in nutrients and to shade them from the hot sun.

Needless to say, I did not grow enough food to fill a larder for the winter, but we ate fresh vegetables all summer. And the Grands actually sold enough melons for a big pizza night. And, Mason grew the above pictured watermelon that he planted right beside the gourds.  I call it a “gourdermelon.” He actually had a little mention on a seed company blog.  No one will ever find it I am certain.  But, I did show him.  We all celebrated it on pizza night.

The question now is will I try again this spring? So far, my answer is yes.  Probably not on a grand scale like last year. With good enough health, I will have an opportunity to plan better and to plant earlier. And, the experience of gardening by the moon is one worth repeating.
By the way, my herb garden was magnificent. I am really looking forward getting that one growing as soon as possible.