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Monday, April 21, 2008

Hornworms and Holes-in-One

Gardening is something I try every year to see if I still don’t like it--sort of like creamed spinach, white shoes, or televised golf. I know there are plenty of folks hanging on the edge of their recliner to see if Tiger Woods sinks that putt, but all I can see is a hundred acres, give or take a few azaleas, of lush green grass tended lovingly by a sea of gardeners for a bunch of guys that are only interested in the spot where the hole is.

Now it’s spring again, when a young lady’s fancy turns to thoughts of fertilizer, and in my mind’s eye I find myself once again nurturing a tiny tomato into full sandwich potential. Of course, my mind’s eye could benefit from the attentions of an optometrist, since it’s a recorded fact that I couldn’t grow ragweed with a bucket of mulch, six gallons of spring water, and the latest edition of the Farmer’s Almanac. But always the optimist, I am willing to spread a little Miracle Gro on the situation and give it the old compost try.

My problem is that I don’t have the necessary tools to garden properly. For instance, I need dirt. You would think that your basic dirt would pretty much come with the territory. But you have to have PH balanced dirt or dirt with Lyme disease or some such thing. What I have here in the southern United States is an amazing substance known as red clay. Red clay is a dirt substitute that comes in several forms; most notably copper-colored dust when completely dry, and copper-colored quicksand when wet. You can find it in large quantities on the sides of pickup trucks, the bottoms of children’s socks, or sunning itself in areas where grass is supposed to grow.

The other essential item I don’t have is water. The transportation of a tender seedling into my yard is a great way to ensure that all the water in the county will disappear into a sinkhole and a record-breaking drought will immediately seize the region, leaving nothing behind but dead worms and sunburned fish. It gives a whole new meaning to the term “dry county.”

“It’s amazing,” the anchorman on the news will say, drawing his brows together to show concern. “We haven’t had a drought like this since the last time Amy Mullis tried to grow a tomato plant. We’ve sent crews to investigate this breaking story.” And pretty soon helicopters will be circling my back yard like mosquitoes on barbecue night.

Every year about this time my sister arrives, dressed in root rot black, solemnly bearing the sacrificial tomato plant. She places it lovingly in a pot of expensive store-bought dirt that has been fortified with eight essential vitamins and minerals, not to mention the eleven herbs and spices, and leaves it to die. I don’t see why she just doesn’t just go ahead and throw the thing in the dumpster on the way over. It would save me the trouble of pulling the sticks out of the dirt brick come fall, an activity I like to call “harvesting.”

It’s not that I don’t intend to water the thing. The first day I check it diligently, cooing sweetly and testing for wetness like I’m growing a newborn baby on a vine, which would be an ideal way to have children if only they didn’t get root rot and hornworms.

Eventually I get distracted by important things like sugary snacks or why the Yankees have enough money to buy the International Space Station but won’t get a pitcher that’s not somebody’s grandfather and at least somebody’s grandfather than can hit the outside corner of the plate for goodness sakes, and forget to water the thing until it’s sending up tiny distress signals using the dust in the planter.

So this year as I pry the sickly remains of my nonproductive Big Boy out of the dust and slam it into the trash can with a single stroke, I can compare myself to Tiger Woods. We’re both good for a hole in one.

But I have to wonder how he deals with hornworms.


the Bag Lady said...

The Bag Lady could package up some of her gray clay to mix in with your red clay! Actually, the Bag Lady plants her tomatoes in the nice stuff the Cowboy pushes out of the corral (otherwise known as manure) and they do really well.
When she remembers to water. Unfortunately, our twin-ship shows up there, too, for the Bag Lady is also easily distracted.

plaidearthworm said...

Were we separated at birth or something? (Which I've suspected before, LOL) Because I am the Dr. Kevorkian of the plant world, and plants come to me when they're ready to go to the big greenhouse in the sky. It's like a challenge now for friends and family--"Betcha can't kill this plant!" Alas, the lush never-say-die mint plants never stood a chance.

Carolyn Erickson said...

Plaid, I meant to comment on Amy's post, but you're saying you killed mint?? Mint??

Can you please come to my house, where the mint that we finally eradicated from the gard plot decided this year to take over the yard instead?

Oh, and Amy - loved the mind picture of the red clay sunning itself!