Awaiting the fruits of my labors | AspenTimes.com

Awaiting the fruits of my labors

Janet UrquhartAspen, CO Colorado

Gardening is a black hole.Well, make it a dense, clay-colored, rocky hole that has turned my thumbs brown, not green. Mostly what’s green is my money, which I’m pouring down the black, er, clay, rocky hole.Rearing plants, I’ve decided, is a lot like having children. I need to keep them warm, watered and fed. They keep me up at night, cost me time and money, and offer me only scant hope that they will some day make me proud.It seemed like a good idea at the time: a perennial garden of native plants out front, some colorful annuals along the walkway, grow our own vegetables out back and live off the land – assuming one can subsist on a few herbs, leaf lettuce and tomatoes that aren’t yet in evidence.Step foot inside a nursery, and I get giddy with the aroma of fertile soil. I might as well be a gambling addict in Vegas. Right away, it was clear I’d need several big bags of soil additive, replete with bat guano, to buff up our dirt. And bobcat urine? Yeah, better get a jug. At the very least, I can pour it on the neighbor’s cat, which keeps digging holes in my wood chips to do his business among the flora. Hey, if I want fertilizing help, I’ll buy exotic poop for 22 bucks a bag, thanks.Like any home improvement, landscaping costs far more moolah and consumes far more time than one would reasonably expect. It started well before growing season, when we sawed a bunch of old plywood into planks to build garden boxes, painted ’em green and assembled them near the shed. Next, we had to build a fence to keep the dogs out of the back 40 (feet), lest they eat our anticipated bounty.Then we spent several more days digging up a corner of the yard and sifting all the rock and weeds out of the dirt. By the time the contaminants had been removed, there was hardly any dirt. Next thing I know, I’m buying bags of dirt and hauling them home. By the time the boxes were nicely filled with a carefully prepared soil mixture, an ant colony had established itself in one of them and wasps and hornets were building nests in the shed (though I’m not sure that’s related).Next, we were off to Carbondale Rocky Mountain School’s annual May plant sale. We bought little veggie seedlings, but might as well have snatched puppies from the teat. Absent the balmy, moist confines of a greenhouse, the plants had to be coddled, big-time. We placed them outside in dappled sunlight for increasing increments each day, before tucking them back in the house at night. That got old after about a week.It was tough-love time. We kicked the plants outside, establishing them in the boxes, and have spent every day since then covering them up at night and uncovering them in the morning. Still, the tomatillo didn’t make it beyond the first week of cold nights. We found its shriveled remains one morning, not far from a basil in the throes of hypothermia and a frosted tomato plant.One night shortly before midnight, cocooned in bed, I remembered we hadn’t covered up the survivors in the vegetable garden. Next thing we know, we’re out there in sleepwear and headlamps, blanketing our tender shoots from the chill.Conversely, hot afternoons curl the crops like a cheap perm, so we’re out there again, draping the seedlings in shade.The flowers, of course, require their own sort of care. I’m stooped over on a nightly basis, picking off dead blooms and making mental notes on how just one more pansy here or another columbine there would make the flower bed complete (like I need more plants). Then, I go buy more plants.And, there’s the daily watering regimen. Between the lawn, the flowers and the vegetables, every evening has turned into a hose job at my house.It has also occurred to me we can’t really leave home for any length of time unless we hire a gardener.Suddenly, this seems like a lot of work just so I can stop and smell the flowers, nibble a couple of tiny strawberries or partake of the joy inherent in slicing up a few homegrown tomatoes and serving them with my own basil.The guano hit the fan this week, though, when snow was back in the forecast for the high mountains and I could already see a fresh dusting on Mount Sopris. Before I cursed and covered the garden, I harvested a big bunch of spinach leaves from the fledging plants, just in case everything bit the dust in the coming deep freeze.Delicious.By August, Janet Urquhart will be giving tomatoes to anyone who’ll take them. Or not. Her e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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