O my God, every year, I warn my daffodils to stay safe! Yet, every year, these marines of the flower world are the first to invade winter’s dreary kingdom. OMG, thank You that my daffodils are far gutsier than I am!
In our September garden, we grow the best weeds in the Midwest.
The hubs and I nurtured this elite crop all summer. Yet — can you believe this? — no one awarded us a grand champion ribbon.
Last spring, my husband, risking vitality and vertebrae, rented a tank-like tiller to prepare the soil. We planted the highest quality vegetable seeds and plants. Why? They attract the highest quality weeds.
I fertilized the garden, nurturing early weed development. Hubby shoveled mulch between rows, providing moisture.
With this year’s bullying June rains, I feared our weed crop would float downriver. But despite such watery adversity, they grew strong.
At first, the dastardly efforts of vegetables and flowers were winning. Rain morphed scrawny tomato seedlings into scary green monsters. Lettuce, carrots and peppers crowded out crabgrass and ragweed. Berry bushes actually produced berries.
Insidious squash vines crushed the life out of purslane and poison ivy. Squash — a fitting name for such invaders, don’t you think?
But squash aggression could not match barbaric cucumbers that wound deadly vines around helpless clover and cockleburs. They even turned against their allies, the zinnias, hanging fat-bellied cucumbers around the zinnias’ skinny necks like fifty-pound pendants!
Cucumber reproduction surpassed that of rabbits. I fled through nightmares in which thousands of cucumbers chased me, finally pickling me in a giant Ball jar.
Fortunately, other allies supported the weeds. After record-breaking rains, July drought sucked out the vegetables’ fighting spirit. The brave weeds, however, persevered.
Area animals also came to the weeds’ rescue. Deer sacrificially forsook hundreds of acres of wild food to munch our garden’s green beans, tomatoes, and peppers. Bunnies wiped out berries, saving us from the sad necessity of eating them. Squirrels stole cherry tomatoes. As they could not carry Big Boys in their mouths, they contributed by taking one bite out of all they could reach.
I did question the knee-high weeds’ newest allies: chiggers. But what are a few thousand itchy bumps compared with the joys of paying high prices for store-bought vegetables that taste like Styrofoam?
Despite trials and tribulations, we weed-growers will never give up. When hostile vegetables and flowers multiply, we enjoy the deep-down satisfaction of giving our all to cultivate the finest crop this side of Green Acres.
Even if we receive no purple ribbon — not even a participation one — to hang on our wall.
Even if we never see our picture in the paper.
We will not lose hope.
There is always next year.
Which won your garden battle this year? The veggies or the weeds?
In the history of mankind, has anyone ever recorded a zucchini shortage?
My husband and I certainly have not suffered such famine. Which is odd, because in April, the seeds we bought reflected our zucchini prejudice: lettuce, spinach, green beans, and cucumbers.
Steve did not place zucchini in the same class as lima beans — he declares God never meant them to be eaten — but he dislikes zucchini, even in sweet breads welcomed by most zucchini haters.
Besides, we heard frightening tales about this squash intent on world domination. Our pastor warned the congregation to lock their cars during zucchini season, as desperate gardeners had been seen stuffing boxfuls into back seats.
What next? Would innocent citizens be forced at gunpoint to accept a minimum of two oversized zucchini per mugging?
Enough corruption existed in the world. We would never plant zucchini.
Actually, I planted nothing, because my workload doubled. My less experienced husband attacked gardening with great enthusiasm. Steve faithfully followed every jot and tittle of planting directions, identifying vegetables with empty packets.
Soon long, green vegetables emerged from yellow blossoms. But they sported speckles instead of bumps. Slices of our firstfruits confirmed the truth: The seed packet said “cucumbers,” with the corresponding picture, but we planted zucchini.
Three hills. With several plants apiece.
I hated to break the news to my hardworking husband. Perhaps weeding made him crack, because when I did, he refused to believe. He had sown seeds from a cucumber packet, and those long, green things were cucumbers. End of discussion.
But not the end of the zucchini.
In our hour of need, I called on our grown children, waving one in their faces: “What’s this?”
Our daughter didn’t hesitate. “A zucchini.”
Our son, married to a master gardener, agreed. “Besides, those are zucchini plants, not cucumber. Zu’s are bunchy.”
The kids’ verdicts shook Steve, though he didn’t visibly back down. When I skewered zucchini chunks on beef kebobs, he said, “You’re grilling cucumbers?”
His favorite theory: Grow ’em big so we can market them as sports equipment.
Some consumers would have sued the seed company for this serious error. Instead, we share our blessings. As we speak, a dump truck, filled to capacity, speeds on its way to the seed company’s corporate headquarters.
And they don’t lock their driveway.
May madness sent me to greenhouses and discount stores, lusting after flower displays, amassing bags of manure as if hefting bags of gold. My car (a.k.a. the Flowermobile) resembled an escapee from the Rose Parade.
For awhile, I dove into dirt with the joyful frenzy of a toddler dressed for Sunday school.
I cooed at my baby plants, positive they would star as celebrities on the cover of Burpee Catalog. All this, despite 35 years of profound evidence to the contrary.
Each August, I finally face the truth: flowers growing between railroad tracks look better than mine.
No wonder. We own the only infertile piece of ground in Indiana.
Still, I nurture my flowers. I even read my blog to them every week. Yet the little rebels conspire to make me crazy.
Maybe some of their gripes are legitimate. My flower pot arrangements look as if Alien Florists, Inc., designed them. My petunias now realize the awful truth: they were adopted by a gardener with a mutant thumb.
“Be patient,” I advise. “In time, those lumps will shift to the right places.”
My mother told me a similar tale when I was 13.
It has never happened — for the petunias or me.
While I sleep, a flora/fauna mafia operation flourishes. Impatiens on one side of the flower bed strike protection deals with the rabbits. How else can I explain why impatiens thrive there, unmolested, while the other side resembles the Garden of Eaten?
My flowers do not appreciate the armies of weeds I’ve fought, the lethal squads of mosquitoes I’ve defied to water them. No gratitude is expressed for expensive gourmet fertilizers I’ve served them. Just flower attitude: I will bloom if, when and where I please.
Meanwhile, the only thing that grows prolifically is my Visa bill.
Finally, I snap. Instead of pampering the little ingrates, I bike through the countryside. But I find no refuge from flowers there. Fields of elegant Queen Anne’s lace mingle with masses of fuzzy blue bachelor’s buttons. Blooming morning glories overrun miles of fences and fields.
“Rub it in, Lord,” I mutter. “Even cow pastures look better than my yard.”
Still, I can’t help but enjoy His exterior decorating and appreciate once more where flower power comes from. Even a Better Homes and Gardens guru can’t grow one petunia unless the Master Gardener supplies miracles of seed, soil, sun and rain.
The biggest miracle of all? He lets gardeners with mutant thumbs help Him.
Tell me about the Flower Power in your yard.
As a child, I read Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit. I loved the cute bunnies — Mrs. Rabbit wearing a spotless white apron; Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail sporting little pink capes; and Peter, a blue jacket with brass buttons. I thrilled to Peter’s quest for food and adventure. My dark side, carefully concealed under a pastor’s daughter’s façade, rejoiced in his mother-defying moxy. That bunny had attitude!
But I despised Mr. McGregor, who owned a whole garden, yet denied a few morsels to a hungry little bunny. McGregor and his equally depraved wife had baked Peter’s father in a pie! Such barbarism horrified me. I trembled as Peter nearly met his end. I cheered him as he sneaked past the evil old farmer.
Having misplaced most of my wardrobe during my young lifetime, I sympathized with Peter. He not only lost his coat and shoes, but his mother sentenced him to an early bedtime and chamomile tea. The unjust ending rankled — an all-too-familiar scenario of siblings enjoying life while the family’s fun person suffered.
In my mind, Peter Rabbit was a victim several times over.
Mr. McGregor, that green-thumbed egocentric, bore the responsibility.
Fast forward a few decades. Well, more than a few. …
A rabbit gang has invaded my garden. Unlike Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail, none of these rabbits — I no longer refer to them as bunnies — wear cute little clothes. If they don clothing at all, I imagine it consists of baggy jeans and bandannas, accented by tattoos.
But the few I’ve spotted wear nothing. I try to be broad-minded. But hordes of naked rabbits nightly overrunning my garden?
This X-rated, crime-ridden piece of ground requires the monitoring services of the National Guard. Or at least, a few heavily armed musclemen.
Instead, enter a cranky old person wearing glasses and rough work clothes who somewhat resembles a beardless version of the 1902 storybook portraits of Mr. McGregor. She weeds and hoes, creaky bones playing rhythms that would shame a parade drum line. She pours her heart, plus gallons of expensive irrigation, into her garden. All she wants is a nice little harvest of something besides zucchini.
Instead, like poor Mr. McGregor, she must chase off heartless varmints who would have her go hungry. She probably won’t escape bad press, either.
What’s your favorite childhood story? How might you “update” it?