Tears and Laughter: How to know who should not garden

In west Alabama we are a bit like old Mobile. We still have dinners at noon featuring lots of vegetables and cornbread. We value our front porches. We have supper at twilight, always with sweet tea.

We garden and have animals that we talk to. And most of us believe our old family is still near us in spirit. Or at least we still think they can hear us, and we sometimes we feel them near.

We take naps and watch lightning bugs. We stay up late the night of the full moon. We allow its presence to serve as an acceptable excuse for the occasional unacceptable behavior.

I do all of those, except garden. I have tried, but when I say I am not good at it…I mean I am terrible at it. I do okay at farmer’s markets and with the gardeners who sell at court house square. I like roadside stands on the way to the coast. But I can’t grow things, and I live on a farm. It is not the fertile black belt soil that is the problem I assure you.

It took years for me to accept that I am completely inept at growing things. I think it was the bell peppers I grew three summers ago that finally helped me see.

I had already sensed that it wasn’t my strong suit after years of growing garden plots of weeds and grass.

Anything I ever put in a pot or a container was doomed to drown.

I did have a leftover ivy plant one year that I put at the base of a cedar tree out front that lived. I think it lived because I didn’t bother it. Now I can’t get rid of it. In fact I’m worried it is going to smother the cedar tree.

At one point along the way I thought I had found the solution for all of my gardening inadequacies, the raised bed.

It was built and filled it with soil, and I bought the best tomato and pepper plants I could find in Camden.

My logic was that if I focused solely on growing peppers and tomatoes, maybe it wouldn’t be as disastrous as years past when I had tried to grow several different types of vegetables by planting seeds in rows.

I am from people who took pride in farming. The Orso’s and Huckabee’s, the McClure’s and the Vick’s…they all would have huge gardens they would show off and share from like many people still do.

Most all of my friends have gardens too. They grow all sorts of squash and tall okra plants, even taller stalks of corn, green beans climbing on poles, row after row of purple hulled peas. I thought surely I could grow a few tomatoes and peppers in a wooden box built just for that purpose.

But nope.

I even ordered special, over-priced, organic fertilizer on the Internet, yes, and would you like to know what it produced? Bell peppers the size of a quarter.

I took a picture to remind myself. The quarter may have the pepper beat in size by a bit, but it certainly doesn’t leave any question as to the scale, or my ability to garden.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Al. Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era – https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.