Clairee: Don't give all these to me.
Ouiser: Someone's gotta take 'em. I hate 'em. I try not to eat healthy food if I can possibly help it.
Annelle: Why do you grow them?
Ouiser: 'Cause I'm an old Southern woman and we're supposed to wear funny-lookin' hats and ugly clothes and grow vegetables in the dirt...Don't ask me those questions. I don't know why. I don't make the rules.
Except for the fact that I'm a Yankee, Ouiser (from Steel Magnolias) and I have a whole lot in common.
It may be freezing our faces off when we step outside today, but this is a busy time for gardeners. Every single day, our mailboxes are filled with seed and plant catalogs, and our brains are filled with dreams of the variety of beautiful fruits and delicious vegetables that we can grow in our own backyards. We gardeners are a delusional bunch. Similar to the experience of childbirth, we have forgotten the pain and sweat and cussing that went on the last time. We only remember the beauty of the finished fruits of our labor.
You, the I-want-to-plant-a-garden folks reading this, have any number of reasons for starting a garden yourself. Perhaps you just want to know where your food comes from. Maybe you are looking to save money at the grocery store. Some of you may be forward thinking and are planning for the zombie apocalypse. Whatever your reason, make sure you think long and hard about whether you have what it takes before planting those first seeds. Ask yourself these questions...
1. Do I really, really like wild animals?
If you plant it, they will come. Deer, chipmunks, rabbits...they all love a good garden. And it is darn near impossible to keep them out once they discover your plot. Unless you can say, "Rabbit, you cute little creature of God, You. Were you hungry? Having trouble finding food elsewhere? Well be my guest. You just eat up all of those green bean plants. I can always just get some beans at the store", don't plant a garden. You must be willing to accept the fact that you can be outsmarted by a deer.
2. Do I like staying home, passing up on any and all summer vacations?
It never fails. If you plan a trip to the beach, every one of your tomatoes will time their ripening to occur while you are supposed to be gone. Want to go hiking in the mountains? Your cucumbers will know, and they will all be gigantic and fit to burst by the time you get back. So much for making pickles. Take a long 4th of July weekend away and the weeds will take over your garden before you can say Oooh, let alone Aaah.
3. Am I OK living in a dirty house?
Between the weeding and the weeding and the weeding (Proven fact: Weeds grow 3,849 times faster than the plants you are trying to grow.) and the laying of grass clippings (organic garden, yo!), and then the picking and cooking and canning and freezing, there just isn't time to clean the house. None. Zero. Zilch. Your children will have to find clean underwear by digging through the mountain on the laundry couch. You won't be able to walk through the house without muttering, "What in the world did I just step in?" When a visitor stops by, you will have to distract her by handing her a bag of produce and taking her out to see where it grew.
4. Am I willing to work with both bees and bugs?
Working in the garden, you will come in contact with all manner of tiny creatures. Ants, slugs, mosquitoes, beetles, bees, and worms to name a few. Some bugs are good for your garden, so you can't just go in and kill them all. You have to be able to sit in your garden, listen to the bug sounds, watch a bee flit from bloom to bloom, and say, "Thank you, Little Bee!" You may even find yourself doing a cheer for said bee. Pol-i-nate! Pol-i-nate! High-pitched screaming and running when a bee enters the garden will not help a garden one iota.
5. Do I have any interest in being a weatherman?
Even if there is absolutely nothing she can do to change the effect it has, a gardener becomes obsessed with the weather. Too much rain, too little rain, record heat, frost warnings. So much to keep track of. Unless you are willing to give up one-fourth of your brain capacity to weather-related musings, rethink your garden ideas.
6. Am I concerned with the way that I look?
Gardening is a dirty job. You will have dirt under your nails the entire growing season. You will have to wear a hat to protect your skin, and with all the sweat you put out, the hat and your hair will not be pretty. Your back will have a permanent hunch from the hours you have spent bending over your plants. You will have clothes specifically for gardening, but at some point in the summer you will say "screw it" and wear them to the store. If you are a person who takes pride in always being put together, gardening will not make you happy.
How did you do? Do you have what it takes to be a true gardener, or have you already thrown the seed catalogs into the recycling bin?
If you have decided to give it a try, stay tuned. Next week I'll have a post with some tips on what to keep in mind when you are planning and planting.
Have a lovely day!