Lessons in Garden Science (or Confessions of a Black Thumb)

There are some things in life that I am naturally really bad at. Things like math, saving money, and sewing. And then there’s gardening. I really really really want to be a good gardener. But the truth is that I was born with the antithesis of a green thumb.

I am pretty sure that what I lack is consistency. Things like watering the plants on a regular schedule, weeding regularly, and the general overall regular maintenance required for gardening. Throughout the years I made passable efforts with hardy flowers in my flower bed, but never anything substantial. However that all changed one Fall day when I asked my son “Where do fruits and vegetables come from?” His response: “The store!”

“Uh oh.” I thought. ” It’s time for some garden science!!!”

I really felt like it was important to teach him the many lessons of a garden. Such as where our food comes from, the joy of growing your own healthy food, and yes – the importance of consistency and hard work. Still a little intimidated by all of the amazing gardens I saw at my neighbors’ houses or on Pinterest, I shelved that idea in the back of mind to simmer.

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Then in early March I saw an interview with a container plant gardener on a local food blog. “Ah HA!!!” I thought. “Container gardening! It’s little, (almost) weed free, and not so overwhelming. We can do this!”

So darling son and I marched to the local store and purchased some seeds and one of those little greenhouse seed starter things. We had a great time getting our fingers dirty and planting the seeds. Then we set them outside. It was March and an unusually warm March so I thought they’d be okay. And amazingly enough, they sprouted!!!

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Unfortunately there were some cold nights, and amateur that I am, I left them outside. The Black Thumb of Death struck again! Our seedlings were toast.

Since the seedlings were gone, I decided we’d try again, but with pre-grown plants. My husband’s helpful response:”Stop buying plants! You’re just bringing them home to die!” Right. With that vote of confidence, son and I marched into a local gardening center and picked out two tomato plants, three pepper plants, and some good bagged soil. I kept thinking “I’m paying WHAT for dirt????” But if there was anything that I could do to increase our chances of success at “garden science” I was going to do it. We also got some of those fancy pots that help you keep your water balanced. It lets out water if you overwater but stores some in case you forget to water. Again, the thought was “let’s do everything we can to increase our chances of success!” We had a long conversation with the gardeners at the garden center about which variety would be the hardiest (i.e. the most difficult to kill). We took the plants home, got them in the new special dirt, and began a regular water routine.

I was concerned that this might be a source of whining for our little guy, but he never complained about the maintenance. I constantly caught him peeking out the back window to watch “the baby tomatoes”. He was excited about our project and it was wonderful to watch his happiness about the growth in our plants.

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Following that regular schedule of maintenance and watering has paid off. Currently we have five green baby tomatoes and six green baby peppers. I am not a professional gardener by any stretch of the imagination, but I am so ridiculously proud of those tomatoes and peppers. They represent hours of hard work and the knowledge that I have gained about gardening. They represent overcoming something that I was truly intimidated by. And most importantly, they represent time that my son and I grew together as we grew vegetables in our garden.

UPDATE 4 WEEKS LATER: The Black Thumb of Death has struck again. But this time, I was assisted in my destruction by the furry citizens of my backyard.

Our squirrels/birds ate all of the baby tomatoes, the tomato plants developed a nasty case of leaf mold, and something (not quite sure what) ate through all of our pepper plants at the base of their stems. We had to chuck everything. Oh well, there’s always next year..right?