Archive for Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Siren song of the garden: ‘This year will be different’

April 9, 2013

John Beal's column, Cabbages and Kings, appears monthly on the Voices page of The Dispatch. Beal is a Shawnee resident and retired editor of The Dispatch.

John Beal's column, Cabbages and Kings, appears monthly on the Voices page of The Dispatch. Beal is a Shawnee resident and retired editor of The Dispatch.

I think it’s about time I got my hands in the dirt again. I mean, after all, here it is the middle of April, winter has basically done its worst, and the planters out on the deck are calling me. “Come on,” they are saying, “this year it will be different.”

Where have I heard that before?

If, as they say, one definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing while expecting different results, then I guess I’ve definitely got the garden madness.

Actually, my problem is not necessarily that my garden turns out precisely the same every year. That is, the results may be pretty much the same – i.e., not much in the way of fresh fruits and vegetables — but the process by which this result is achieved (or not achieved, if you insist on looking at it that way) is different each year.

Last year, after we got a few tomatoes, it turned hot. We watered assiduously, and we had lush, resplendent vines with no tomatoes. The year before, the soil was off balance. Before that, I had the wrong kind of planters.

You cannot say that I have not learned from experience. When my soil was poor, I fixed up a compost bin and used the composted table scraps to amend the soil. When my containers were inadequate, I got better containers. Unfortunately, it strikes me that I’m like the generals who are always preparing to fight the last war.

Like people who get on airplanes basically secure in the knowledge that they will arrive safely at their destination, I think most gardeners are optimists. I think we tend to look at the garden patch (or in my case, the containers) and visualize a positive result no matter what happened last year. That is, we regulate our behavior based on the tantalizing promise of what can happen, not on anything so devoid of vision as mere experience or history.

Being by nature a glass is half full kind of guy, I look at those empty planters and visualize them spilling over with ripe, succulent tomatoes fairly bursting with flavor or tangy, tasty peppers. This planter over here will be good for lettuce, and we’ll get some broccoli from the big pots on the steps.

Of course none of this will happen if I don’t get to work. So in the next few days I’ll dig into the compost bin and start amending the soil in the planters, adding a little fertilizer just to keep things humming along. Then it will be time to hit the garden center for the plants.

For the moment I will ignore the possibility that this year, in fact, won’t be any different after all. I will ignore the possibility that, instead of delicious tomatoes and ripe, beautiful peppers and the rest of it, my hopes will again be frustrated. Hope springs eternal, after all. You can’t live without hope.


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