I now own a house that has a respectably sized yard, complete with a functioning hose and a fancy fence. I have, for a long time now, owned a desire to live off the fat of the land, complete with a short memory about how often I’ve tried and failed to do just that. And, thanks to Amazon Prime, I now own a fabulous book that chemically combines those two things into a powerful solution.
That’s right, I am, once again, attempting a garden.
Last time I tried this, I was living in Pittsburgh, so I started the plants indoors in April to try to give them a fighting chance. Little did I realize that it wouldn’t be the weather that would kill them, but my meager attempts at nurturing other living things.
Phase One: Hope
Phase Two: Hubris
Phase Three: The Inevitable
Also pictured here, the other living thing that is inexplicably still alive despite my constant care. Not pictured, the neighbors coming out to check on her two minutes later to see if she was breathing. She responded by barking at them incessantly for the next hour.
After that, I learned a lesson, though arguably not the lesson: I did not attempt another garden at that address, where the yard was small and well shaded. Instead, my black thumb lay in wait for four more years, all the while growing in potency and fearsome thirst.
After I arrived at my new home and before we got any furniture or even cooking implements, I began planning for my next victims.
This is the kind of plan that The Backyard Homestead encouraged me to make: paper and pencil, detail and flexibility. I made this before I checked out what the local garden shops had for sale, and based it more on a straw poll where I asked what plants were easy to grow in the hot Texas summer.
After making this plan, I thought about trying to computerize it, and I poked around on the internet to see how other, more seasoned gardening enthusiasts did it. In doing so, I stumbled upon a fantastic blog written by a fascinating Canadian woman. Her garden plan is immaculate.
I asked her what program she used, and she told me (as per my usual, I felt like I was talking to someone famous because she has hundreds, probably thousands of followers, and she just sort of messaged me like I mattered…what a time to be alive, folks). The program is the web-based gardenplanner.almanac.com which costs something like $25 a year. I balked at that, not because it’s an outrageous price to pay for something with as many features as it has, but because I felt a little uneasy that my phone would suddenly be better at gardening than I was. Perhaps naively, I decided that I would give it at least half a growing season of solid human effort before diving into the luxury of Computer Aided Farming.
So this week, I built a raised bed. Built is sort of a strong word, as all I did was sort of bring materials together that had previously been separate, but I created something where something had not been, and I sweated quite a bit in the process. And I basically followed my carefully written plan not at all, mostly because the plan was as aware of the limitations of space and soil and money as I was at the time of making it. I’ve been meaning to recreate my plan with more accuracy so that I can go back to using it, but I haven’t taken the time yet.
The growing season here, like everything else in Texas, is big and lovely and long. But any plants that I put in the ground in May have to have the fortitude to make it through the hell of June, July, and August. Considering I don’t even know yet if I have that fortitude, I’m more than a little worried about my newest charges. I chose tomatoes and bell peppers, because my handy book told me they were hardy plants that thrived in warm climates. I bought those as plants at a nursery nearby, figuring I probably should have planted them earlier if that option had been open to me.
Then I chose eggplants and okra to plant as seeds, because I’ve never grown them before, and I was told Texas does them well. I also had some fried okra at a barbecue place the other night, and I could definitely find a regular place for that in my life. So I planted those seeds in the plastic pots left over from the tomatoes and peppers that went into the ground. I watered them and covered them in plastic, hoping to protect them from the natural tragedy of the food chain. I plan to take the plastic off just before we leave for Chicago in a week or so, at which point the poor suckers will have to face the cruel world of squirrels and birds on their own. Hopefully they’ll have made some progress by then.
Once again, I am filled with the intoxicating optimistic energy that comes from the best laid plans of the would-be gardener. Fat of the land, here I come.