The Eternal Optimism of the Backyard Gardener.

In my mind, I am many things, most of which I won’t share. Because I won’t, so don’t ask.

Of all of those things, I can tell you that one of them is “gardener”. The appellation of “gardener” rests most uneasily, because it really not very true. In fact, it’s not true at all.  As much as I might want it to be the case, I’m really all sweet talk, no action when it comes to putting in a garden, maintaining it, weeding it and watering it. I want all the benefits but none of the work. I want to grow prize-winning tomatoes, but I’m too lazy to stake them. I weed sporadically, usually when I’m on the phone. The only remotely successful thing I’ve (correction: We’ve) ever grown were some green bean plants last summer, which provided us with more green beans than we knew that to do with (I lie: they got turned into pickled green beans and all was right with the world, but I digress). I’m still half-convinced that was a fluke.

Here’s what I do every spring: I always, ALWAYS start every growing season by making a grand plan for the garden. After I’ve decided what I’m going to grow, I fantasize about working in the garden with my boys, teaching them about varietals of flowers, showing them how to pick off the runners on tomato plants. We’ll plant three different types of peppers, twelve herbs, four types of tomatoes, some asparagus, and a full butterfly garden full of indigenous wild flowers. And of course,  it will all fit and grow under the branches of the very large tree in my backyard, whose canopy shades all but a three-by-two foot patch of clay-like soil right at the back of the yard beside where my neighbour keeps her garbage cans.  Won’t it?

Some time in June I’ll buy the best of what’s left at the local garden centre and haphazardly throw it into the soil. By August every year, I have to again face the fact that I’m not really any good at this gardening stuff. I mean, I like it. I know what I’m supposed to do to get the green shoots to keep growing and the pretty things to smell good. I’m just unrealistic about what I can achieve, underwhelmed by how much work I need to do to get even half-way there, and just a bit annoyed that gardening is actually, you know, work, and not just a way to get free tomatoes every night. But that hasn’t stopped me from starting to peruse the seed displays at our local Canadian Tire on my way to work and wondering whether we have enough room to grow watermelons.