When it comes to gardening, I’m all thumbs

Sunday, May 2, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:17 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 12, 2008

I’ve never been very good at gardening. To say I don’t have a green thumb is putting it mildly. As a matter of fact, I’m all thumbs when my hands come in contact with dirt.

When I was growing up, my mother loved to plant flowers and was actually quite good at it. She planted rose bushes and was proud of her rock garden. She never asked us to help. I think she took up the hobby to get away from her six kids. And although I’m almost a clone of my mother — down to the varicose veins — I never had the urge to take up a hoe and dig in the ground.

Then about five years ago I decided to plant a vegetable garden. My husband tilled a small square plot about 10 feet by 10 feet. He outlined the area with timbers, and after the first year when the deer ate all of the plants he put up a chicken-wire fence. That next year nothing grew except my tomatoes. I must have had 100 that summer. Then my brother-in-law came to visit and remarked that we put the garden in the wrong spot. He said it was too close to a walnut tree and nothing would grow — especially tomatoes! When I told him about my bounty, he just grunted and said something about beginners’ luck. He must have jinxed me because the next year most of my tomato plants withered and died, and I only picked a half-dozen scrawny tomatoes the size of grapes.

I think I liked the idea of a garden, not the actual work involved. I bought all the gadgets. I had knee pads — though I had enough padding of my own. I had gardening gloves in a variety of colors. I even bought a wide-brimmed straw hat, which I either forgot to wear or took off after a few minutes because it made me sweat.

Weeds became the bane of my existence. They grew taller than my plants. I ordered a “miracle” tiller. On the TV commercial, an older gentleman — who didn’t look like he was in good health — demonstrated the tool. As he guided the handle, the prongs at the base plowed right through the weeds, throwing them right and left. When the gadget arrived, I could hardly wait to give it a try. I must have gotten a defective model because after 30 minutes of pushing and grunting, I had only removed about a dozen weeds and most of those I bent down and pulled out.

Two years ago, I had had it with gardening. The farmers market is less than two miles away, and is a lot easier place to get vegetables. Besides, I could wear my straw hat and make believe I was a farmer.

This year I turned my attention to flowers. So my husband and I made a trip to a flower farm and selected several varieties of annuals

Next I had to buy some potting dirt. The parking lot of the store was filled with pile after pile of sacks of soil. I got very confused, so I bought a little of each and mixed them all together. I also had two boxes of water pellets which I sprinkled on top of the soil. When I was sprinkling the pellets on one of my planters, the bag tipped and a handful fell out on the deck. I neglected to sweep them up, thinking I’d get to it the next day. Well, it rained the next day and when I looked out on my deck, there was this big mass of clear gel. I guess that is one item that really works!

I have no idea how to arrange the different varieties in the containers. The little stick that comes with each plant says to place them 6 to 8 inches apart. My containers aren’t that big, so I ignored the advice and wedged 20 different plants in each container. Sometimes I pushed too hard and broke the flower halfway down the stem; I bought extra because this has happened before.

Most of the sticks said “partial to full sunlight.” I figured the plants would just have to fend for themselves.

After I had loaded the planters with life, I stepped back and admired my work.

The next day when I stepped out on the deck, I noticed dirt around the bottom of my pots. Walking over to get a close look, I noticed that several plants were missing! It was the work of those damnable squirrels! Maybe it was their way of telling me that I had too many flowers in each pot, and they were trying to help by thinning them out.

If you have a comment or know why I’m supposed to have acidic soil, please e-mail me at

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