Help for a brown thumb

I have generally tried to do things for myself if I can, rather than asking for help, though I’m more than willing to accept help that is offered with things I don’t know how to do. My husband sometimes complains that I need to ask for help more often, whether it’s with bringing in the groceries (I’ve always prided myself on how many bags I can manage to carry), lifting heavy objects, or getting the dishes done. But if I can do it without help, I’m not likely to think about asking, unless I don’t feel well.

I’ve always preferred self-service gas stations, do-it-yourself kits, and self-guided tours. Part of the is a desire to save money, and part of it is the introvert’s preference for solitude, but part of it is feeling that it’s cheating to get help with certain things. Growing up, we weren’t allowed to use cake mixes, as we were expected to make things from scratch. As a young wife, I initially resisted buying mixes for macaroni and cheese, Hamburger Helper, and other common cooking shortcuts. But shortage of time and the discovery that the finished product really tasted pretty good eventually won me over.

Until last year, I always insisted on growing garden plants from seeds. That’s how my father taught me to garden when I was a girl, and my cucumbers grew so abundantly that sometimes I gave the surplus to the local health food store. But the gardening I’ve tried the last few years has been less successful. I’ve tried growing herbs in the garden, and when that didn’t work I tried growing them indoors first. They grew fine until I put them outdoors, at which point they all died.

The marigolds I planted with my son to try to discourage rabbits from nibbling at his zucchini plants grew just fine. But the zucchini plants never produced more than a few flowers (as best as I could tell from studying gardening websites, all the plants were “male”). Then last year at a farmer’s market, we came across a tomato plant for sale. It already had some small green tomatoes on it, and I decided it would be nice to have something grow in the garden that I could actually eat. I probably got just enough tomatoes off it to recoup the cost of the plant – but they were all vine-ripened and delicious.

This year I helped my son plant flowers, which seem to do a bit better than vegetables for us. But for my own garden, I purchased some zucchini plants, tomato plants, and a spearmint plant from a local garden store. They’re not as far along as that tomato plant I bought last year, but at least they’re growing – and a day after being transplanted into my garden they’re still alive.

Last year I tried the same thing with different plants (peppers and squash, I think), but later in the season, and using just the soil I had dug up in the yard. All the plants promptly withered and died. This year I bought a bag of topsoil to cover the dirt I had dug up (in a different corner of the yard this time).

I clearly don’t have a green thumb. So while a part of me dislikes starting my garden this way, it will really be nice if I finally get to make the zucchini bread I promised my son when we started his garden two years ago.

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