Ah, springtime — when the green thumbs amongst us conjure up blissful images of bountiful summer harvests. We don our gnarly sun hats, amend last year’s neglected garden plots and make our first foray to the local nursery. The purists buy seeds to nurture, and the rest of us wimps buy starter plants. Regardless, we all have plans to munch and crunch our way through summer and fall, secure in the knowledge that our food is fresh from the ground, pesticide free and blessed with love.
I came home from the nursery with my baby plants, ready to dirty my hands and nestle the little fledglings into the soil. It was March 21 — spring, according to the calendar — the brave gardener’s Opening Day. Never mind that we’d had teeth-chattering frost the week before, it was time to plant!
In my exuberance, I forgot that my husband, Mick, had promised to build raised beds this year. But, with pony packs in hand, I was ready to chuck the raised bed idea and just stick the little suckers in the ground. However, Mick insisted that he could have beds up and running by the end of the week, if I could only hold off that long. We already had the lumber, so it was only a matter of a quick trip to the hardware store for some bolts, rebar and other assorted construction paraphernalia.
In resignation, I set my babies on the deck in the shade, watched daily as they settled into a morose decline and read their little organic minds: “Oh, dear God, if only we could have gone home with a more expeditious gardener.”
Bless their little hearts, they were holding their own until our three canines discovered the epicurean potential of zucchini leaves and baby romaine.
Meanwhile, saws whined, curses flew and progress was made toward plant nirvana. Power tool man was in control and in a “Lead, follow, or get out of the way” mode, so I chose option three and kept my golf date.
As usual, Mick came through as promised with beautifully crafted “gopher-proof” raised garden beds, and my slightly wilted, moderately abused veggies put down their struggling little roots into $9,000 worth of garden soil. Because of course, once one builds the beds, the dirt must come from somewhere, and it ain’t free.
Next came another trip to the nursery for corn, replacement peppers, cucumbers, another tomato plant or two, onions, healthier cilantro — oh, and don’t I need a new pair of gardening gloves? — snail bait (pet safe), bird netting, PVC to hold up the netting, fertilizer, spray nozzle for the hose, bark for garden ambience, stakes, zip ties, rabbit-proof fencing and petunias (more ambience).
Oops, forgot the garlic starts; hmmm, bush beans look awfully nice; ah, well, my old hose really is getting stiff, perhaps I ought to try the “As seen on TV model”; wheat grass to lure the dogs away from the zucchini leaves, bamboo screening to keep the neighbors’ prying eyes out of my produce paradise, strawberry plants, crookneck squash, pumpkin seeds, clamps for PVC, garden umbrella — cha-ching!
Veggies in ground, netting over beds, bark artfully spread, flowers tastefully planted, sweat on brow, chair in shade, butt in chair, beer in hand ... bird under netting. Dammit! The problem with encouraging the birds to come around is that they actually do.
And then there is the problem of the the sacrificial lambs. The pilgrims of the vegetable realm — the squash left with no room at the inn, the pumpkin plants relegated to life outside the fortress walls. Every one vulnerable to attacks of marauding snails, sinister slugs and voracious gophers. It’s a jungle outside the raised beds.
I’m normally a nonviolent person, but I’m contemplating an online order: night vision goggles, 500 shells, a 12-gauge shotgun and a camouflage hunting cap. I’ll plant myself on the roof of the house in a Slanket and bedroom slippers and blast those little suckers to — or, better yet, maybe I’ll check the garden section at Miner’s for a gopher drone.
God and gophers willing, before we know it, harvest time will be upon us, and the Gardener’s Lament will echo around the county. From San Miguel to Nipomo, Morro Bay to Cholame, the haunting cry will carry in the wind ... “Holy criminy! What am I going to do with all this friggin’ zucchini?”