The adventure begins

Colleen’s yard was overgrown with nasturtiums and dandelions

I am about to undertake an adventure, and I’m hoping you’ll help
me out.
It’s not the swashbuckling kind of adventure that involves
danger and excitement; it’s the kind that involves messing with
things you know nothing about. In this case, I’m talking about
gardening.
I am about to undertake an adventure, and I’m hoping you’ll help me out.

It’s not the swashbuckling kind of adventure that involves danger and excitement; it’s the kind that involves messing with things you know nothing about. In this case, I’m talking about gardening.

I, an inexperienced gardener with brownish thumbs, am starting a garden in my back yard, and I’ll document my triumphs and defeats in a weekly column. And what I’m asking is that you join me on my little excursion, and help me see it through.

If you have any suggestions, comments or questions for me, send them in. If you’ve found something that works for you, you’ll probably be helping not just me, but numerous other gardeners with the same problem. If you have stories to share, even better.

While this might not really be much of an adventure for the humans involved, for the plants, it’ll be a matter of life and death.

Like many novice gardeners, I’ve had some successes – and many more failures – in the gardening realm.

My successes include growing a cherry tomato plant that produced exactly two (2) cherry tomatoes and a bean plant that gave me a total of 12 pinto beans. I count these as successes because I grew these plants inside an apartment. In San Francisco. At a north-facing window. So there.

In that very same apartment, however, I lost a peppermint, oregano and curry plant to aphids (how they got inside my apartment, I’ll never know), and I never managed to get a lettuce plant with more than two leaves.

In my current house, the battle is again with aphids and also snails, as well as dandelions and nasturtiums. Last summer, after clearing the bed of nasturtiums, I planted numerous seeds in hopes of getting a good garden growing – tomatoes and cucumbers, squash and sunflowers, and various peppers.

I had dreams of tasty salads and light summer veggie dishes permeated by the unmistakable flavor of freshness that only garden-grown produce can provide. It would be a bit of the Mediterranean in my back yard.

Of the dozens of seeds pushed into the ground, only six sprouted – one ornamental sunflower and five squash plants. Lesson learned: Two people cannot eat the fruit of five squash plants, no matter how hard they try.

While few of my vegetables grew, the nasturtiums and dandelions wasted no time filling the space.

So I let the plot go during the winter, only to be rewarded with nasturtiums that reached nearly 2 feet in height and almost covered the walk and dandelions that bloomed with all their might – dandelions that not even the snails could kill.

Still, as spring has come once again, so has the romantic notion of walking out to my garden to cut basil for pasta sauce or to pick strawberries for breakfast or to cut flowers for my table.

And so, in the interest of perpetuating my dream, I have once again cleared the nasturtiums from a spot in my back yard. It took me a couple of hours, and it’s taken three weeks to get rid of the detritus because there’s so much it won’t all fit in my greenwaste recycling can.

And still I have more to clear. But I will persist, for I am on a mission.

While I don’t know a heck of a lot about gardening, I do know that the condition of the soil is key to growing healthy plants.

My problem thus far has been getting my soil into good condition, although it already seems to be perfect for nasturtiums and dandelions.

But I’ve got big plans. I’m going to compost. I’m going to double-dig. I’m going to keep on top of those weeds.

I’m going to will those seeds to sprout. And I’m going to plant some baby plants in potting soil in containers as insurance. I want something to grow, after all.

So if you’ve got tips, information, anecdotes or other items to send to me, e-mail them to [email protected] or call me at (408) 842-9505. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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