In May of 1998, I convinced my reluctant husband that we absolutely needed to spend $1,000 on a dog run so that our new puppy could enjoy the outdoors without being eaten by a coyote. Turns out that the new puppy didn’t love the new digs created just for her (that ungrateful you know what.) Sophie wanted to be where the kids were, or at least where the pieces of left over hot dog were, and barked incessantly when “caged” outside.
So I pivoted. I realized that the dog run would also make a great vegetable garden, the sturdy fence providing protection against unwanted 4-legged creatures. I convinced Mike that I had always really, really wanted a vegetable garden, and explained how lucky we were to have one already fenced in.
This was partially true. I liked the idea of growing my own fresh vegetables, and I certainly liked the idea of keeping my husband from thinking we had just completely wasted a grand.
So this is how my vegetable garden was born. Not of love, but of convenience (or some might say, deception.) But I stayed with it for 14 years.
In early spring, I spent hours digging up the garden with my shovel and hoe, sweat pouring from every gland, blistering my fingers raw. Eventually, I started to pay the gardener to do the heavy lifting, because that is the kind of fun that was only fun for a few seasons. I spent a couple of hours each spring clearing rocks from the garden soil. I never quite understood how after 14 years there could be any rocks left, but there were.
I schlepped oversized bags of manure, lime and soil, dumped them in the garden, worked them into the soil. I visited the local garden store and spent way too much money on small plants in green plastic containers. I bought tomato plants, cucumbers, beans, sugar snap peas, summer squash, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, and broccoli. I lovingly planted them in the dog run space that I knew was far too small according to the planting instructions. What’s the joke? My husband told me that this:
[--------------------------] was 6 inches. So, that’s what I went by.
All through June I would make a daily pilgrimage to the garden, the dog or a kid by my side, checking out my little plant babies, picking out the little weeds. Every so often the dog, or a kid, would squash one of those babies, but I figured with the overcrowding, it was ok to have a little un-natural selection.
But when the weather got hot, I remembered that I never really liked to play in the dirt. I remembered the feel of dried dirt on my hands gave me the weebie jeebies.
I became resentful of the daily watering and weeding. I would always miss a day or two or week of weeding over the 4th of July holiday, and before I knew it, prickly nettle creeped through the fence and began to suffocate my cucumbers. I got attacked by mosquitoes. I ruined my manicure. I got dirt in the house. I hated my Crocs. My back ached.
At one point, after Mike forgot about the sting of the $1,000 for the dog run (and the additional money for the invisible fence that replaced the dog run) I convinced him to install a sprinkler head that hit the garden so the plants did not die of dehydration when I got too lazy to water. That helped for another 5 or 6 years.
Despite the neglect, my garden yielded some decent looking peas, green beans, tomatoes and cucumbers; I never calculated the cost per veggie, but I have no doubt it was outrageously high. I didn’t get any broccoli and the peppers were awfully weenie, but I grew zucchini the size of a small dog house. If I had them this year, for sure I would post pics of my zucchini to my Facebook page for all to admire. And for sure my daughter would comment, “weird brag, mom.” But I don’t have to worry about that.
For years, the yield made me forget how much I never really liked the schlepping, the weeding, the mosquitoes, the Crocs, the aching back. But lately, the trees bordering my garden have grown so high that the garden does not get much sun. The yield last year was particularly pathetic. Something had to go: it was the trees or the home-grown vegetables.
You guessed it. This July 4, I declare independence from gardening. There is grass is growing where the dog used to bark her head off. I threw away the Crocs, my nails look good, and I’ll be buying my tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market.