My father had what is called a ‘green thumb’, even in the most adverse situations he could make plants grow. He would occasionally play with flowers, but his real love was to put food on the table or in the freezer. I suspect that his success was due to the fact that he spent much time pottering around the garden. It provided him a break from the ugly world of work.

I do not have the dedication of my father, but each year around Easter I get the urge. My efforts while in Canada never worked out. That last snowfall and deep  freeze of the year was always a gottcha. In San Diego I was just too darn busy, and in Phoenix, it was just too darm hot.

In the fall of 2008 we moved to Mississippi, this looked like ‘fertile ground’ for some gardening. There is rain, there is sunshine, and it is warm. Around Easter 2009 I decided that I was going to get into the gardening business.  I had no gardening implements but came up with a cunning plan. I would use bags of soil and cut the tops off. Rather like this guy.

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My crops would not be Tomatoes, I had other plans. I was frustrated that the local supermarket was frequently devoid of fresh cilantro and often even parsley seemed to be in short supply. So I cut off the tops (or sides) of two 40lp bags of dirt and planted my seeds. Within a week I was in awe, little green shoots were everywhere. We were set for months worth of herbs. After about three weeks the little green shoots had grown leaves, you could tell what the plants were. I was so pleased that I snipped a couple of leaves off and my wife and I had a taste of the upcoming harvest.

It was around 7am on a Tuesday morning that we were both woken by the dulcet tones of a Formula One driving lawn mower. I thought little of it at the time. The yard people were just doing their thing.

I thought even less about the familiar sound of a Gas Powered Weed Whipper. Obviously a riding mower has its limits and to do the fine stuff you bring out the weed whipper. It was later in the day that I discovered the Herb carnage. A plentiful supply of cilantro and parsley had been reduced to a couple of green stalks!

I was done with gardening for the year!

In 2010 the idea of gardening hit me again. But obviously I had to do it in such a way that the weed whipper guy would realize that the plants did not need a trim. I set my sights higher that parsley and cilantro, this time I was going for tomatoes. But I wanted something a bit different. Originally heirloom tomatoes were on the agenda. Whats not to love about tomatoes that have not been fooled with? And if all goes well, you can save some seeds for next year. Somehow my research got derailed and I found the Italian Tomato Tree. A beast of an animal, twelve to fifteen feet high and producing fruit the size of Texas! I ordered a bag of 10 seeds. Somehow the order got screwed up, Fed Ex instead dropped off a box with a live plant in it. I was not upset, quite the contrary, the screw up worked for me. I followed the planting instructions carefully. And boy did that plant grow quickly. In no time at all it had gone from 4 inches to 6 feet! This was a tomato plant to be reckoned with!

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Then disaster strikes. Of course everyone needs a spanky looking house, and the current rage is to put Vinyl Siding on. It is durable, and it lasts longer than a president in office. But it does need to be cleaned every year. Gone are the days of ladders, buckets of warm soapy water and good old elbow grease. Power Washing is the way to go. The addition of a good dose of bleach in the water will remove any blemishes. My poor Tomato tree was the victim of friendly fire. It was caught in the ricochet of bleach. Within a couple of weeks it was gasping its last breath. What the bleach didn’t get the ants did. My gardening season for 2010 was over!

2011 dawned and I decided to have another go. In late summer of 2010 my wife brought a watermelon home. I am not a fan of watermelon, but this one was a little different, the flesh was yellow, and the taste was more like a cantaloupe. I saved some seeds. So at Easter 2011 I got the gardening bug. I planted the 12 seeds that I had saved. Before long 4 of them had sprouted. I was ecstatic. The little critters made it to about 6 inches high. I did not want to be overwhelmed with yellow watermelons and had a cunning plan. One plant to my father in law, one to my wife’s aunt, and one to the very nice lady that lives next door and is an avid gardener. My thoughts were not entirely altruistic, I figured it more as a way to ensure that at least one of the plants might have a chance, and I would be able to get more seeds.

Disaster struck! Kids living in the other half of the duplex decided that the plants were so pretty, they picked them!

Gone was my gardening adventure for 2011.

I am a believer that success comes from perseverance, if at first you don’t succeed you just keep trying. So I have high hopes in 2012. The power washing folks have done their thing, the serial weed whipper guys have been warned, and the Damien’s have moved to a new richer pasture.

So I am on an ambitious plan. One that will almost certainly fail. I am going for tomatoes, Bell Peppers, and some herbs!

My chances of success are about zero. Some new pest is bound to invade. But you have to try. There is something unique in growing your own produce.

Simon Barrett

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