I have to believe that there is no one on Earth that doesn’t like a garden, because really, what’s not to like: fragrance, color, form, bees, worms, food, flavor, drugs.
Of course, there’s also, back-breaking work, dirty finger nails, expense, blackspot, aphids, and just as much chance your hard work won’t come to fruition.
But what the hell. Life’s a challenge anyways. Might as well be able to eat it.
For those of you that find yourselves a bit Garden Challenged, allow me to introduce you to my eleven tips for Gardening with Dumb Thumbs:
1) You need dirt. (Unless you garden hydroponically, which is possible, but then you need a science degree and a controlled climate, and I don’t know about you, but my climate is anything but controlled. Like my tolerance for hydroponic gardening), you just need dirt.
2) This dirt should be a combination of structure, food, and drainage, which translates to top soil, compost, and sand (in that order and a ratio of 4:2:1).
3) Depending on what you grow, the soil should test to a pH level that is optimum to that plant’s needs. Tomato’s like a bit more acid (around 6.0 pH) while lilacs like their soil more alkaline (7.0 pH). I prefer the pH in my head to be more on the neutral side, like a pH of 7.0, which means ‘Personal Health of a 7 year old’.
It’s a GOAL people. Jeez.
4) If you can’t grow your own plants from seed, then purchase the best/largest/healthiest plants you can afford. They may be a little more expensive, but, they are stronger and less disease prone. Like my great Aunt Jenny. She lived to 98 and died with a martini in her hand.
5)You know the little tags on the plants that tell you how far to place each plant apart? Forget that shit. Plant close. This will keep the weeds down and the ability to retain water up.
6) Water and sunshine. How I love the beach…. wait- this is a garden post.
Back to business: You can’t maniuplate sunshine. You either have it, or you don’t, and even though there are plants that love shade, most need light. Lots of it. As for H2O, it’s like wine. I need it and I don’t want it poured on my head. Most plants will do better, with less disease, if you water from the bottom (Am I right Ladies?) Or at least water early enough from the top IF there will be time for the plants to dry off. Reminds me of a joke about two Jews and a Priest in a schvitz, the Priest asked what time it was….
7) In spite of all the Mother Earth Love of gardening organically, unless it’s veggies that are going to go into your mouth- use chemicals. When my roses are covered in aphids and my delphiniums are being eaten by little green worms that laugh in my face- I spray them with apocalyptic juices. I Am Woman. I carry Big Guns.
8) That said, I only use organic remedies and fertilizers in the vegetable garden. Not even I want to grow a third breast. Though I heard it can come in handy.
9) Deadhead. No- not BED head- DEADHEAD. If you want your plants to continue to produce (and who doesn’t?) snip the spent flower heads off back to the stalk. As for veggies- when my herbs and lettuces start to ‘bolt’ (flower) I give them a hair cut. Maybe it IS Bed Head?
10) Choose plants for growing ‘Seasons’- planting a c-o-m-b-i-n-a-t-i-o-n. It’s no good just to plant for spring, when you think you might live into Autumn.
11) You can torture yourself with color combinations, or, you can just resign yourself to the fact that most flower colors follow the temperature of the seasons. In example: Pale blues and pretty pinks and soft whites and pale yellows like the cool temperatures of spring. As the weather warms up- so do the colors. This stands to reason if you understand Botany. But since you probably don’t, and I do, you’re welcome.
And finally, don’t forget to take a glass of the bubbly into the garden, and sharpen your tools…
Always sharpen your tools.
My Moss Rose. I let the spent blooms go to pod because the birds love the vitamin C in the winter, and I love the birds.
One of several Foxglove (digitalis) that greet me every morning.
When I was a child, my mother was the center of my universe.
She seemed to alight from high, and softly land in all the right places.
She never raised her voice, and never ever raised her hand. All she had to do was look at me and say, ‘Cheryl Aaaann’.
Oh oh… I’m screwed.
1) Thank you for teaching me to use short phrases- with meaning.
How she put up with my shenanigans (I wore her gowns to tea parties in the woods and her false eyelashes to school) I’ll never know?
2) Thank you for nurturing my love affair with really expensive cosmetics, and the occasional ‘fake-out’.
I used to stage plays in our living room with her antique English solid walnut dining room chairs in the front yard set-up like theatre seats to view the play through our large picture window (I kept the front door open and everyone was required to ‘emote’ loudly) as I wrote, cast, choreographed, directed, and had the ‘lead’ in my own productions.
After returning home from a long day of work, did she freak out?
No. She sat down and enjoyed the show.
3) Supporting the Arts is important.
I threw Carnivals in our yard, with the directions I had sent away for from the back of a cereal box. (Of course, I charged admission. Who wouldn’t?).
Mom simply suggested I use plastic milk jugs instead of her cut crystal vases for the Roll-n-Bowl.
4) Appropriate recycling is not always up-cycling, as in, you shouldn’t put a go-cart engine on your bicycle. I know that now.
I commandeered our dog’s large fenced pen to open a consignment shop, called the Sassy Kitten (I kid you not) and got all of my friends to bring their excess stuff and then sold it back to all of their friends. (Taking a commission, of course).
After deciding that the dog’s pen was a very good place for me, she decided to join in.
Her excess fabric scraps were stylishly folded and sold for a nickel a piece.
I could keep the change if I stayed out of her hair.
By the next weekend, all the grownups had day-glo orange and hot pink floral cotton place mats on their dining room tables.
5) Setting trends is creating standards, and then defying them; like the clash between 1960′s colonial furniture and mini skirts.
She had fabulous taste. She was a professional model, after all.
She didn’t walk, so much as, float.
When she decided to advance her career into Fashion Coordinator for some major department stores, she decided that my sister and I could make some moola as child models, so she taught us to ‘float’.
And I got of of school to do ‘it’.
“Why weren’t you at school yesterday, Cheryl?”
“I had a photo shoot. Downtown. Mrs. Duncan.”
Holy Shit! I was in Fifth grade! What a great life!
6) Work it, Baby. Work it.
And whenever I got into trouble, or found myself in a pickle, or thought my life was ending because someone said this and then that happened and, somehow, my father’s corvette had a dent, I went to her.
Because she could fix anything. Except me. Because she loved me just the way I was.
7) Thank you Mom. Just…
My beautiful mother around age 60.
The other day, I got to thinking (always dangerous).
About the reasons, events, and moments, in my life when I have experienced hackle raising(ie: I will come at your eyes).
They are far and few between all the love, however, it has happened, and when it does it is not pretty.
Here are a few classics (in chronological order):
My little sister was being picked on by neighborhood bully Kenny. He was knocking her off of her bike when we played Bike Tag (which, if you have never played- is awesome).I cut his tires so he couldn’t play.
My little sister was being picked on by some idiots in Middle School (I was in High School). I arranged for a little visit by my friend, Reggie, on his Harley, to the playground. They had a little talk. Problem solved.
My best High School friend, Debby, was being called a lesbian by several mean girls. The rumors spread. Debby was devastated, but it was nothing a full-on-the-mouth kiss in front of a full gymnasium of peers, and a counter-rumor of scabies among the blondes, couldn’t fix. I’m brunette, by the way.
Assorted teachers that found my son disruptive because he was asking to take tests before the course had been fully taught. The only thing disrupted was his learning- at least until he was allowed to accelerate through the system. Idiots.
A beautiful, sunny, weekend day of grass cutting, house painting, chores, and happiness, when I realized that the woman across the street was yelling serious obscenities at my kids because she had gone off her rocker (and her meds). A visit to the fence line with a call-out to the public sidewalk, peppered with a shut down in controlled, but colorful, speech, found her raving when the police arrived, and my neighbor chanting, ” Oh oh. Cheryl’s in the house.” Bye-bye crazy lady.
The charitable gift of a ten dollar bill, to a sweet young thing, bemoaning a car malfunction down the road, when, I saw her skip off to the streetcar line with a young man, who had magically appeared out of the bushes, whereby I followed the street car all the way downtown, and by which, when they disembarked, I pulled up along side them and demanded my money back. Startled as they were, the money was reimbursed.
My list could go on and on and on…
But it’s just not my list. There are other’s who have had such moments, like my friend Alyson at The Shitastrophy
I only wish I had been there.
“Don’t forget that we have the Julia Jump shindig for the PRC at City Park’s Popp Fountain in the Arbor Room with Amanda Shaw playing and a silent auction, cocktails, small plates, dress business nice, and our guests are Julie and Chuck.”
“Who the hell is Julia and why is she jumping?”
” Do you really care? Really?”
“Fine. Can you remember?”
“I mean it.”
“Do I look like an idiot?”
He missed it.
I ‘jumped’ for both of us.
Julia Jump is the annual fundraising event for the Preservation Resource Center in New Orleans, committed to restoring, rebuilding, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture & neighborhoods.
Once Upon a Time…
there was a little red hen who lived on a farm.
She was friends with a lazy dog, a sleepy cat, and a noisy yellow duck.
One day the little red hen found some seeds on the ground.
The little red hen had an idea.
She would plant the seeds… and grow some wheat, to take to the mill, to be ground into flour, to bake into bread.
Synopsis: None of her slacker farm mates would help with any part of the making of the bread, so even though they wanted a piece; fresh, aromatic, savory and filling, little red hen didn’t give a damn.
Moral: You should probably participate when a hen can pull something like this off. I know humans who couldn’t do this.
Once Upon a Time…
A Giant smells a human boy.
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead,
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread!
Synopsis: Jack steals a lot of valuables from the Giant over the course of a few secret visits, climbs down the beanstalk, with the Giant on his tail, grabs an axe, chops the stalk down sending the Giant to his death and Jack and his mom live happily ever after on the stolen loot.
Moral: I think the Giant was under-appreciated.
Once Upon a Time…
Hard by a great forest dwelt a poor wood-cutter with his wife and two children.
The boy was called Hansel and the girl Gretel…
blah blah blaaaaaaaaah
We all know the drill.
Synopsis: Starving peasants, including obligatory evil stepmother, take their children to the forest to die because there isn’t enough to go around. Not only are the children abandoned, starving, and lost, but they have to face an evil witch who attempts to bake Gretel in her oven with a loaf of bread (because nothing goes better with a fresh loaf then thigh of child) however, Gretel pushes HER into the oven instead and the witch incinerates, as the children, now somehow, remember how to find their way back home to a grateful father who is no longer being pussy-whipped by his wife- ’cause she’s dead, too.
Moral: I don’t have a God damned clue, but there’s the bread theme- again.
What I do know is that I have baked some bread.
And it is good.
So, if you find wisdom in listening to talking poultry (and I do), would have liked to try a slice of that Giant’s bone-dust bread, and would never have been so stupid as to venture into the forest with the biiiitch that had your daddy doing dumb doggie tricks without a trick of your own up your sleeve, then join me…
While we bake bread.
Fairy Tales can come true.
Sour Dough Bread Recipe
First, make the STARTER.
1 package active-dry yeast
4 cups warm water
4 cups flour
In a medium bowl, dissolve the yeast with 1/4 cup of the warm water. Whisk.
Add 1- 3/4 cups of warm water and 2 cups flour. Blend. It will be runny.
Place the bowl, uncovered, in a warm place for about 12 hours.
Stir the mixture.
Add the remaining 2 cups warm water and 2 cups of flour. Blend well.
Again- place the bowl, uncovered, in a warm place for about 12 hours.
It should be bubbly and smell yeasty at this time.
Separate the mixture, 1 cup each, into sterile 1-pint containers (I use Ball jars). Cover loosely as it will continue to expand. Refrigerate.
1 cup sour dough Starter
1-1/2 cups warm water
4-1/2 – 5 cups flour
1 package active-dry yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
1- 1/2 teaspoons table salt
Course ground sea salt
In a large mixing bowl (I use my electric Kitchenaid stand mixer) combine the Starter, water, yeast, sugar and table salt.
Add the flour, one cup at a time, until the dough holds together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for at least 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and firm.
Oil a large bowl.
Turn out the dough into the oiled bowl and twist it around to coat the dough with oil.
Cover loosely and let the dough double in size in a warm place. (About 2 hours).
Turn the dough out, again, onto a floured work surface, and divide into two pieces.
Form each piece into a loaf.
Place each loaf, side by side, onto a baking sheet and cover loosely. Allow the loaves to rise again in a warm place. (About 1 hour).
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Right before placing the loaves into the hot oven, take a sharp knife and draw it across the top of each loaf, cutting a shallow slit into each top.
Generously sprinkle with sea salt.
Bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it.
Remove to a cooling rack.
Slice after brought to room temperature.