Wicked Gardener

The next cover of

The next cover of “Worst Homes & Gardens.”

My name is Holly and I’m a bad gardener. But let me explain.

Despite my best intentions, the ol’ community garden plot slowly grew into a weed jungle again this year. You leave a piece of land to its own devices for a week and it does its damnedest to erase all evidence of your interference. (Also, you sow your seeds on Labor Day Weekend and then vacate out of state for a week or two, as I have the past few years, and … yeah.) The plot was lousy with the scourge that is bindweed, aka Convolvulus arvensis, a cousin of the morning glory that invades the soil and winds its way up plants, pulling them down, strangling them in the process and blocking their sun exposure. The only known ways to kill bindweed are 1) RoundUp, which is strictly verboten in the community garden and nothing I’m inclined to use; 2) Pouring boiling water all over the plot, which, like a normal garden, isn’t flanked by electric outlets and I don’t own a cauldron; and 3) Covering the 17’x10′ plot with a black tarp or sheets of plastic for, oh, say three years.

The other way to get rid of it: hours upon hours of weed pulling all summer.

Now, let’s stop and think about summer. Just yesterday, the blitzkrieg of weddings, birthday parties, cookouts, campouts, neighborhood festivals, street parties and such had many of us booked up for weeks on end. If you have time for weed pulling in the summer, you are likely retired or an extreme introvert who wouldn’t mind being introduced to this garden plot, thick with accursed weeds, that I waited three years to get.

Did I mention the plot is about 1.5 miles from my house? Definitely not too far, but given a day at work and an evening activity, I generally made it to the garden once or twice a week early in the season to check the weed progress and water the tomatoes, peppers and cabbage.

There were several survivors. Plenty of summer squash and zucchini, a decent amount of kale and rainbow chard, and the odd wild raspberries made stopping by the garden a bit fun. I also discovered two tiny peppers and a lone radish. All delicious. Maybe it’s my agrarian genes, but there is no satisfaction like eating food that you and the earth collaborated on. And I assume the brussels sprouts are still growing …

Out of shame of its shabbiness, I often visited my garden under the cover of night. The weed bed was beneath a streetlight, glowing yellow on the bikepath beside it. I would fill my plastic grocery bag with what I could carry while swatting at the army of mosquitoes intent on inserting their thirsty probiscuses into my flesh.

Next to the the seasoned lifestyle farmers of Madison, Wisconsin, my paltry plot was an eyesore on the verdant landscape. Beautiful strawberries in the early summer, carrots, cabbages, lettuce, peas, green beans dancing up poles and enough tomatoes and peppers to exceed every salsa and marinara sauce canning dream. And nary an unchecked weed.

Madison is a master gardener’s playground. I simply cannot compete. Next season, I’ll plant some store-bought herbs and tomatoes in buckets and pots on my porch. There’s plenty of to sunshine be soaked up around the flat. Plants located just steps away have a much higher likelihood of flourishing.

Until then, I will machete my way through the weeds to recover the wheelbarrow and shovel I bought at the beginning of the season, presuming they’re still in there.

I hope to convert the wheelbarrow into a kayak cart (or bribe a friend to). But that’s another blog post.

Here’s a ’90s video for you. (Before Scott Weiland got too deep into the Layne Staley bit!)