Gardening is a passion, it’s a labor of love.
Ask a non-gardener why they don’t garden and you might hear: ‘why would I crawl around in the dirt, fighting off mosquitoes, pulling weeds and hand picking Japanese Beetles?’ Well, when you put it that way, perhaps we gardeners are the idiots, and the sailors are the savants.
Personally? When I find myself at the yacht club, enduring a clam bake with people who might as well be speaking french, I assertively seek out a sailor and put the question back to them…..but, here’s where you need to be a skilled sarcasticator…..don’t actually say something stupid like : “why do you like sailing?”. Rookie mistake.
There’s an answer coming that will make you stick your green thumbs deeper into your knee stained khakis…..
Instead, put it this way: “I never understood sailing. You can’t catch marlin or tuna from a sailboat, you can’t water ski from a sailboat, and if the wind dies down you’ll miss your tee time and be forced to call the harbor master for that humiliating rope tow into the dock”.
You answer the question yourself, fill it with tongue-n-cheek sarcasm and subtle references to your adventurous lifestyle.
I then quickly move on to the people wearing the shoes that looked like they sprayed them with the hose before they left the house. THOSE are my people.
Gardening has been my passion since I grew my first tomato plant, FROM SEED, in 1969. Yes, I was 7….see photo. (I’m the one wearing the sailing school tee-shirt in the front…never went to class)
Pumpkin vines have been following me across the country. I have grown pumpkins in Queens, Manhattan, Chicago, Los Angeles….I have grown them in dirt, and in soil, in sand, and in gravel…..the most memorable pumpkin patch for me was at my rooftop loft in Chicago, in 1995.
I schlepped all the supplies through the service entrance, and sowed the seeds in a giant old whiskey cask, cut in half, filled with bags of soil on top of crushed stone. The plants came shooting up and started to stretch across my deck….but then they went beyond the deck and began to venture out across the blacktop roof. Problem.
Let’s try and estimate the temperature of a black tar roof in Chicago, in July, at high noon. It can fry an egg, literally, I did it. The vines started to shrivel up….pumpkins have little tentacles at every cluster of leaves that cling to whatever they come in contact with, and drink water ever so daintily….pumpkin vines can reach 20, even 30 feet long….imagine how hard it is to send water and nutrients that far from the roots. Hence the tentacles.
But my roof pumpkins’ tentacles are now seeking sustenance from black tar roof paper. Crisis! what do I do?
I ran to the hardware store and bought a dozen window flower boxes and more bags of soil…..and an oscillating sprinkler like the one kids run through on your front lawn.
I lined up the flower boxes under the vines, and saved the pumpkin patch. But there was a problem. Given the new lease on life, the vines kept spreading. So I kept buying window boxes.
The man at the hardware store said: “How many Windows Do YOU have?” Hurry! It’s 98 degrees outside!
It all ended in disaster I’m sorry to report. My sprinklers (I had to buy another) showered the superintendent 6 stories down one dry afternoon and he promptly walked up to my apartment, demanding I explain my artificial climate.
I had to remove the vines. Sad, but true.
What did I do next? Made a big sign and posted it around the neighborhood. “Moving Sale. Everything must go. Special deal on window boxes”. I moved to the suburbs, to let my children thrive, unencumbered by black-top roofs.
Gardening IS a labor of love.
But like all love, and all labor, it often disappoints. But we persevere. We trudge on through drought and monsoon. But let me tell you this: I’m saving my money for a sailboat.
Co-founder Back40 Mercantile