how to play farmer in nine easy steps

When I was considering a things to do before 30 list, one thing that ended up on there was growing something edible.  I’m not talented at growing stuff, well, unless you count my fingernails or the mold in the back of the fridge.

I once had a garden when I was little.  It produced two tiny radishes, about the size of a marble.  I cut them up into teeny pieces and sprinkled them all over our family’s salads that evening to make it feel like I had done more.

So I decided to embark on a food-growing experiment.  But, being the impatient and do-it-myself person that I am, I just decided to guess and throw myself into it without much research.  We’ll see how it all turns out.  Should you want to follow my fly-by-pants-seat-if-nothing-grows-eh-no-harm-done example, here’s a step-by-step process.

Step One: Find some dirt.  

Know that your complex has garden plots to available to rent, but feel too intimidated to go large scale.  Also miss the deadline to sign up.  Admire your neighbors’ green thumbs and their ability to grow rows of pretty plants.

Get inspired by your other neighbors who have created little gardens by their front doors.

Think, “Hmm, if they did it maybe it’s not a violation of my lease to do the same.”

Note that some neighbors grow flowers while others grow bicycles.  Take picture quickly while walking by so they don’t think you’re a stalker or something…

Decide based on this survey to park your $10 garage-sale bicycle somewhere else and put a garden opposite your tacky chair.

Step Two: Make your dirt nice-r.  

Realize you have no gardening tools.  Grab a hand-me-down-never-once-used-meat-stabby-thing from the kitchen.  Decide it looks enough like a gardening tool to work.

Remember that a big bush was removed last summer next to the porch, so decide to locate this little experiment closer to the juniper bush.  Get to work digging and scratching in the dirt.

Dig for all of fifteen seconds to discover this:

Think, “Huh.  That’s weird.  Oh well.  I’ll just dig it up.”

Remove said paver.

Dig for another sixty seconds to discover this:

Think, “Okay, that’s weirder.  Is there possibly a reason there’s two random pavers here?”

Look up, and realize you’re an idiot.

Realize that when you took a picture of your garage-sale bicycle, you took a picture of the fire extinguisher, too, but were too dumb to realize it was there.  Recall countless conversations at work about risk and safety and fire egresses.

Replace pavers.

Return to step one.

Step One: Find some (other) dirt.

Decide to move your ugly chair to where the bike is, park bike somewhere else, and locate garden on other side of the porch.  Recall from last summer that you’ve already cleared the ugly chair area of weeds, detritus, and rock so it’ll probably be good for plants now anyway.

Arrange pile of rocks that was sitting under the chair to become tasteful, organic, and free garden border that will hopefully keep the guy with the lawnmower from getting too close.  Take sucky pictures in the poor evening light.

Step Two: Make dirt nice-r.  


Stab dirt with your stabby thing like it’s a piece of meat.  Think, “Hey, I’m gardening!  Look at me!”

Dig up a few more rocks.  Add them to your new rock border.

Dump a bag of fancy-schmancy dirt from the garden department at Target on top of your freshly turned dirt.

Mix it in with your boring, old, has-been dirt.

Feel good about yourself for making this location slightly more hospitable for plant life.

Step Three: Figure out what to plant and go to McGuckins.  

McGuckins is the KING of hardware stores.  The guys in my architecture studios used to say, “You can get anything at McGuckins except porn and beer.”

Pick up zucchini seeds because everyone says anyone can grow zucchini, so you might actually manage it.  Plus, zucchini bread: yummy.  Get basil also because it’s the yummiest spice ever and it seems hard to screw up.  Pick up carrots, too, because why not?  Also grab your favoritest plant ever…

Laugh at the name of one of the herbs.

Admire the cute piggy watering cans at the store, but settle for a cheaper and more practical army green one.

Step Four: Stick stuff in the dirt.  

Note that the seed packets for carrots and basil say to plant seeds 1/4″ deep.  Quarter inch?  Seriously?  Sprinkle some basil seeds around and turn the soil a bit.  Figure that’s good enough.

Poke some holes for the carrots seeds so they’ll appear to be growing in rows just like your neighbors who have the real gardens.  Acknowledge that they’re deeper than a quarter inch, but meh.

Stick four zucchini seeds in the ground.  Know that you’re probably over-planting this space, but justify it by saying that you can’t grow anything anyway so half of it probably won’t come up, and if it does get overgrown you can just pull some of the plants out.

Save the rest of your seeds for if this whole experiment ends up an epic fail.

Finally, add your favorite plant, which you could only get in plant form, not seed form.

Step Five: Just add water.  



Step Six: Pray.  And don’t forget to water.  

Check back in ten days to discover that something’s actually growing!

Scratch your head because it looks like the picture of basil on the seed packet, but it’s 18 inches from where you planted it.  Shrug and figure that maybe the massive rains of the previous weekend shifted your soil around.  Oh well.  Something’s growing!

Step Seven: Backup.  

Realize that even if stuff DOES end up growing in your garden, since you live so close to wildlife deer may eat it all.  Or those incredibly creepy raccoons!  Be swayed by marketing to buy an upside-down tomato planter.  Because home-grown tomatoes = yummy.

Buy and insert tomato plant and dirt according to instructions.

Thank your lucky stars that there’s a screw already on the underside of the walkway overhead.  Hang your as-seen-on-TV planter.  Realize it looks like of cheesy but you don’t really care.  Worry much more about it holding up to Boulder winds.

Stand back and wait for the oodles of tomatoes to start popping out of that thing.  Pray that only short deer wander through your neighborhood.  And that passing college students don’t get hungry and snatch some of your tasty, tempting tomatoes.

A week later: tomato plant has a flower.  Flowers = tomatoes.  Remember that from high school botany.

Step 1B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B, and 7B: Make everyone who knows anything about gardening cringe when they read of your attempts. 


Step Eight: Realize as part of that 30 list you’re also reading Farmer Boy, the only LIW book you’ve never read.  Irony is fun.  


Step Nine: Write very picture-heavy blog post.  Oh, and keep watering.  
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