Confessions of a Black-Thumbed Veggie Killer

April 17th, 2016

If you’d peeked into my backyard at 10pm a few nights ago (not that I’m suggesting you SHOULD do that –  that would be creepy), you’d have seen my husband shining a flashlight on our pyramid strawberry planter while I struggled to cover it with pink polka dot bed sheets in gale force wind. The dog played a supporting role by trying to fetch the sticks I was using to weigh down the sheets.

I had failed to notice the freeze warning until right before bed and had to charge out into the dark and the cold and the wind in a valiant effort to save my strawberries. It was a noble gesture, but I fear it may have been in vain. The repeated days of sub-freezing temperatures are only partly to blame. The deeper truth is that I’m a notorious plant killer.

Before we moved to Kentucky, my experience in growing vegetation was limited to house plants. They died. All of them. Every time. I had tried several plants in several apartments over the years, but none had thrived. I eventually gave up and put them all in the protective custody of my best friend who is an avid Grower of Things. They’re much better off with her – I visit them periodically and reassure them that I will never take them away from her.

Anyways, despite my poor track record, I decided that country living necessitated having a garden. It’s practically a requirement of citizenship in this part of the world. So our first summer in Kentucky, my dad built me a small two-tiered garden box and I dutifully attempted to grow snap peas and kale. Attempted is the key word there. It wasn’t until the end of the summer that I realized I had used sterile, nutrient-free “fill dirt” in my garden bed. Who knew there even was such a thing? Public Service Announcement: vegetables need nutrients to grow.

I bounced back from this embarrassing episode and last summer, I planted an ambitious “rainbow garden” in raised beds at my eldest daughter’s prompting. Red strawberries, orange carrots and sungold tomatoes, yellow corn, green snap peas, blueberries, and purple bush beans.  The results were mixed. The meager strawberries were eaten by birds, the carrots never germinated, the corn didn’t pollinate (apparently planting a single row is a bad idea), and it turns out no one in our family actually likes tomatoes. The snap peas and bush beans, however, were a smashing success. There’s nothing better on earth than a freshly picked, freshly steamed green bean.

Given that I’m a ferocious optimist, I took my impressive 29% success rate last summer as a mandate for expansion this year. We planted four fruit trees, bought two more blueberries bushes, and added another raised bed. Sadly, we’re not off to a great start. My snap peas and carrots failed to germinate. My original blueberry bush appears to be dead (not sure why) and although my strawberries flowered mightily, the combination of wind and freezing temperatures has not been kind to them.  But we soldier on! Next month we’re planting cantaloupe, bush beans, corn, watermelon, and butternut squash. I’m accepting bets on whether anything actually survives!

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