When F-E-R-T-I-L-I-Z-E-R Is a Four-Letter Word

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“You did WHAT?!”

“I fertilized your plants,” my ever-so-“helpful” husband answered, “to help them grow.”

So much for my nice, organic garden. So much for scouting around for this kind of compost here, that kind of compost there, and the other kind of compost somewhere else and mixing them all together to get a good blend. For the bucket in the kitchen for fruit and vegetable scraps and the composter in the backyard for those and lawn and garden pickings. Compost makes great fertilizer. My plants were growing just fine.

‘scuse me while I unclench my teeth. He means well. But sometimes I just want to bang. My. Head. Against. A. Wall. He planted a garden across the backyard from mine. Go play in your own garden and leave mine alone. Unless I want you to water mine or something.

For somebody with two hands full of brown thumbs, it’s going well. Except for the Black Krim tomatoes and the onion sets. And the mesclun.

I managed to kill the first Black Krim. Something ate the second one. The last time, I planted three Black Krims. Maybe one will survive.

The onions? Squirrels, I assume, although raccoons could have gotten to them. I planted sets and, the next day, all I saw were holes where the sets had been. Then I noticed signs that one onion had survived. My husband noticed onion number two. Oh, joy! I can make a double batch of vegetable soup this fall!

There is lettuce growing in my mesclun patch, but only one kind. Now, mesclun is a mixture of lettuces, so I don’t know that I should continue to refer to my patch as “mesclun,” but what the heck. I’m sure that whatever-it-is that’s growing will still taste good tossed with a little olive oil, a liberal sprinkling of seasoned rice vinegar, and some toasted walnuts (my favorite salad).

I got into gardening out of nostalgia. I wanted vegetables that taste like they did when I was a little girl: Before scientists got their hands on them and “improved” them to the point where they’re tasteless clones of each other and their most important mission is to be transported to market without getting squashed or over ripe. Not to mention in the largest quantity in the most-compact space.

To get that taste, I also chose heirloom plants and seeds as much as possible. So now I’m worrying about the plants growing. Why, for example, are my Kentucky Wonder pole beans not getting tendrils to grab onto the bean tower yet? Why aren’t my pickling cucumbers growing tendrils, either? (I will have pickles this year. I WILL have pickles this year!) Maybe they just haven’t grown high enough yet. Whatever the reason, they don’t answer back when I ask.

My gardening surprise? Whew, boy, is it exercise! Even from a scooter! I knew that gardening in the ground was exercise, what with all of the bending and kneeling and stooping and hoeing and so on, but who knew gardening in a 2-foot-high growing bed while in a seated position would be?

You bend, you stretch, you dig, you tie, you lug a garden hose from here to there and back. Weeding? W-e-l-l…I’ve found one. I kind of researched different gardening styles and selected Square Foot Gardening, which calls for a growing mixture of equal parts peat moss, vermiculite, and compost. No soil. Plus, it’s in a raised bed. So not a lot of weeds, although I did find one trying to hide amongst the beans. I suspect that, as the plants grow, there will be more bending and stretching as I search through the (hopefully) vegetable-laden foliage for any wayward weeds to eliminate.

With the garden comes a composter, which needs to be fed and aerated. And, oddly enough, watered. I chose a rotating composter. I just couldn’t see myself reaching way up with a pitchfork or aerator to mix up the contents of a compost pile.

Which reminds me: If you live in an area that’s getting rain, please send grass clippings. My composter needs food and it hasn’t rained here in forever. I have my kitchen scraps, my one weed, and my two dead tomato plants. Aside from that and from cleaning last year’s foliage out of a giant patio planter, I had to buy some coir (coconut fiber) to add in so stuff wouldn’t, you know, stink. Maybe my local Starbucks participates in the used coffee grounds for compost program. I’ll have to ask.

Anyway, I go out in the morning and the evening to fuss over the garden, give it a drink (only once a day) and rotate my measly pile of compost and I’m huffing and puffing. Maybe today I’ll top-dress the slower plants with some dried kelp to give them a little boost.

Yes, I’m still going organic, despite my husband’s attempts to nudge the plants along with (shudder) fertilizer. I’ll have my organic garden yet.

Maybe next year.

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