My father was an expert, there was little that he could not coax to grow. As a child I have vivid memories of him growling and complaining about Asparagus. He had planted some seeds several years previous and the damn plants just kept coming up year after year. In his mind they were nothing short of being a darn weed that was stifling the growth of other plants!

He had a natural knack for growing things. From an early age I learned to love Horseradish Sauce with beef. No bottled junk for us, my father had a small patch of Horseradish, dig up a small root, grate it, add cream, vinegar, a touch of salt and pepper, you were good to go.

I on the other hand have less luck in the world of gardening. It just does not seem to be something that is in my genes. Last year was a good example. I decided that I would grow some herbs. Nothing complicated, just ones that I love to use. Cilantro, Parsley, and Chives. Of course I didn’t have any pots or planters, but I had a cunning plan. Take a 40 pound bag of gardening dirt from Home Depot, poke some holes in one side for drainage, and cut the the plastic off the other side. It worked great! Before you could say Miracle Grow, bits of green were appearing. In fact within about two weeks you could tell the difference between the Chives, Cilantro and Parsley. I had cracked gardening! I even snipped off a small piece of Cilantro and shared it with Jan. It tasted great!

Then, Black Tuesday arrived. Laying in bed I heard the dulcet tones of a Power Mower, the landscape folks had come to give the lawn its regular Army issue hair cut. Watching these guys in action is a ballet, one screams along on a riding mower at NASCAR speeds while the other uses the biggest Weed Whipper known to man. I suspect he has a supercharged V8 in the thing.

It was a couple of hours later that I ventured outside to water my herbs when I made an unfortunate discovery, The guy with the V8 Weed Whipper had decided that my plants had been in need of a trim! End of the herb season for me!  Weed Whipper 1, Herbs 0.

I was angry, but not discouraged. I decided that I would grow tomatoes instead. But not just any tomatoes, I was going to grow an Italian Tomato Tree. This whopping plant would reach between 12 and 15 feet high, and have fruit up to 2lbs in weight!

The little 4 inch plant arrived via UPS. I selected a sunny spot far away from where the Lawn Care Demolition Derby likes to operate. Life went well for several weeks. Four inches grew to one foot, then two feet, four feet, six feet, and then eight feet. I was beginning to feel as if I was part of Jack And The Beanstalk.

There was however one minor structural issue. I could sense impending doom should the wind start blowing from a particular direction. My solution was to anchor the plant to the chain link fence, and also use some branches that had fallen from an oak tree to form a tepee for it to climb around.

A few days later I noticed that bits of the fabled Tomato Tree were missing. It seemed to be shrinking rather than growing. My first thought was that my neighbor had trimmed it because it was encroaching on their property. As they are both keen gardeners this seemed unlikely, but it was the only explanation I could come up with.

Day after day I watched my Tomato Tree get smaller and smaller. In less than a week most of the leaves had gone. Not fallen off, just gone!

I know when I am beaten, the V8 weed whipper had disposed of my herbs, and obviously there were no 2lb tomatoes in my future. Gardening was just not for me.

A couple of days later I decided to take one last look at my lost Tomato Tree, and I discovered the whole problem. On the top of the Chain Link Fence that I had secured the plant to was an orderly flow of Ants, each one carrying a small green part of my plant.  Ants 1, Simon 0.

It was clear that gardening was just not for me. I hung up my spade and watering can, I’d just stick to writing.

A few days ago my wife noticed something strange in the kitchen. A life form seemed to be escaping from a cupboard. Unfortunately neither Jan nor I are very good with cabinets low to the ground. We have no problem bending down, but in our world that is a one way ticket. How do you get back up?

We decided to wait until a more qualified person dropped by. The cupboard in question was not one that we use and the life form did not appear to be life threatening. But having read John Wyndham’s Day Of The Triffids one cannot be too careful with plants.

Jan’s cousin Gloria came to our rescue. The source of the Triffid invasion was revealed….

Anyone for French Fries?

No water, no light, no ants, and no Lawn Care specialists. I am back in the gardening business!

Now this is what I call zero effort gardening!

Simon Barrett

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