So one day I woke up and decided I’d garden. As in “how hard could it be / I know the location of the nursery / plants need water and fertilizer and I totally got this” type of thing. Maybe I should have read a book on the subject first. But seriously. Who has time for all that.
So I gleefully planted rows of peas, cantaloupe, watermelon, and tomatoes. I planted zinnas and sunflowers, peppers and herbs. If I was going to get on my hands and knees yanking out Johnson grass all summer, I might as well get some produce in the mix. I have neighbors to impress, ya’ll.
I heard you should mark your plants, or lay out some form of grid, but in my typical impromptu fashion I just planted the melons and yellow squash and zucchini and cucumbers in the same general vicinity, because I’ll totally know from the leaves what they are. But wait – I’ve never planted them before. But wait – all the leaves look the freaking same.
I bought all my plants from a natural organic nursery here in Austin – a good healthy mix of heirloom varieties, so when the cucumbers turned out looking fat and round I was pissed that I got some goofy variety that nobody in their right mind likes to eat. I ended up picking one, diced it up, and ate it with oil and balsamic, but it was terrible. I declared my first batch of cucumbers inedible and totally blamed the plant store for selling me total junk. I was seething I just didn’t go get veggies at Home Depot, where things turn out as they should.
So the other day, I went to pick more peas and noticed that all the ends were growing black. I rushed off to my organic guru, despite the cucumber disaster, and asked what the heck was happening. I told him how I’d tended to them so lovingly, provided climbing apparatuses for them to attach to, fertilized the crap out of them, and now they were paying me back with black tips. “You fertilized your peas?” He looked at me like I was telling a new mother to put Sprite in a baby’s bottle. I felt stuck in a vortex where other avid gardeners were pointing and staring, like this is a party for legitimates and you’re just a smarmy school girl with braces.
Oh crap. You don’t fertilize peas? Is this common knowledge? He told me I’d created a nitrogen crack habit for aphids, and how I’m now getting a fungus, and I needed to spray and pray and for the love of all that’s worthy read a book on gardening. Fine already, plant nerd.
So when I went to spray the peas, one of my strange heirloom cucumbers had grown larger because I wanted to see how big it would grow, and as I looked closer I was quite amazed. As it turns out they weren’t cucumbers after all. They were cantaloupes. I’m not admitting that to anyone.
So the lesson to this story is to plant zinnas from seed, because these suckers are totally foolproof, and grow into lovely big-headed flowers in the heat of the summer, so when friends come over you can hand them bouquets, and say you garden, even if you overwater the tomatoes and pick all your melons before they ripen and over-nitrate.
Next year, watch out. I’m reading a book on the subject.