The love of the soil is buried deep in our collective conscience. Each year the sap rises and our spirits lift in song, in an ancient ritual older than memory. We are druid priestesses anew, dancing at Beltane. We thirst; we yearn to dig in the rich, loamy earth. She is our mother, the source of all life springing forth anew!
Which is why it stinks that I suck so hard at gardening.
It’s not that I don’t try. Heck no! Each year I start out with a heart filled with hope, and the best of intentions. This will be the year. The garden club will call, begging me to join. The newspaper will want to photograph my paradise as an inspiration to all. THIS time things will be different. The spirit is willing, but my thumbs are every shade but green.
In early May, garden meccas spring up in the parking lots of every grocery store and big-box home improvement store in town. The colors call to me; the rich shades of green, the rainbow-hued flowers. Their buds speak a promise that the Garden of Eden can be mine; that it will be mine. Even the most mundane items like tomato cages are seasonal sculpture to my winter weary eyes.
I prepare the sleeping earth, awakening it from its slumber. I till, rake and weed. Come Mother’s Day, my hopeful offerings are in the ground, watered with love. Yet everything I touch turns to dead.
The veggies are the cruelest disappointment of all. As I tuck the tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and herbs into their potting soil blankets, I imagine I am a pioneer woman out on the prairie. It is my job to grow the crops that will ultimately stand between my family and starvation. In the back of my mind I am imagining the coming winter, when the bitter winds come howling around our soddie. Can we say: “Donner, party of 4!”
Last week I put the last of this season’s sacrifices into the pots and plots that may be their final resting places. The flowers are blooming and I am hopeful. But already things have gone horribly awry. The lilies I planted last fall are up, tall, strong and starting to bloom. At the same time, the leaves are turning brown and curling up. The lone hollyhock plant that came up is suffering the same fate. I’ve looked in minute detail, but I can’t figure out what’s killing them. It may be some kind of bug, blight, or infestation, but I suspect supernatural forces are at work.
So many promising tomato plants have died over the years in one of my beds I figure it must be unhallowed ground. I may need an exorcism. I planted asparagus in that bed 3 years ago and harvested a grand total of 6 stalks this year. Not all at once, mind you. No, one at a time. The rhubarb should be as big as celery stalks by now, but they look like anemic, purple pencils. There will be no pie in my future.
I’m discouraged, but not beat. I am going to keep on watering and weeding. If this turns out to be yet another epic fail, I’ll console myself with this thought: I won’t have to go out and water when it’s really hot if everything is already dead. Come August I can just hang out inside where it’s air conditioned and blame everything on malevolent garden spirits.