Wide Awake: My Green-ish Thumb
Actually, my thumb isn’t green at all

You may not know this, but watermelon grows on long vines. Really long. So plant a seed and you’ll get a 20-foot vine that starts sprouting the giant fruit. I learned this when my dad planted watermelon on the lawn of our Philly rowhome when I was a kid. The lawn was small, so he basically planted a jungle in front of our house.

At first we were excited, because it looked kind of cool, like this was about to be a super successful harvest because there was so much green growing. But it turned out that while the vines grew like crazy (overtaking the lawn), the watermelon didn’t. No one got to taste any freshly grown watermelon that summer.

It’s easy to guess then that no one in my family is an avid gardener. I’ve never planted anything. And when people send me flowers, they die pretty quickly. I love flowers, though, and I especially love beautiful gardens. I just never thought I could have one.

But during quarantine, my friend Toni Farmer started posting quick tutorials on Facebook about gardening. It was clear from her posts that she’s an experienced gardener. (I found out later she has a Masters of Environmental Studies from the Univ. of Pennsylvania.) Those posts got me thinking this might be a perfect time to try my hand at planting something – just not watermelon. Together, we agreed this would be the summer I become a gardener. She had a lot more faith in that than I did.

Of course when I asked her, I hadn’t thought about how she would help me considering we were social distancing. We decided that Toni would send me videos, starting very simply, and I would take it from there. I’m not sure if she realized how much of a beginner I was, but she found out when she had to spell out in detail what supplies I would need. (As in, I had no idea what potting soil was or where you got it or what it looked like.)

My first task was planting green beans, which to some people may seem really easy. I get it. But just filling up a watering can with water – finding the hose, turning it on, then filling the can – took about 25 minutes. That’s where we’re starting, folks.

Luckily, Toni is patient and kind. She actually told me there would be no garden shaming during our project, which is probably warranted but I appreciate she’s the kind of person who will refrain.

Except for the fact that I originally bought the wrong seeds, the green beans planting went well. Although, I did call her about 3 days later to tell her I forgot to water them. She reassured me and said to just start watering now. I then set an alarm on my phone. Hopefully one day watering will be something I naturally remember, but until then I’m taking precautions. If the green beans don’t grow, I will be disappointed. If they do grow, I will be shocked.

Second step was building a raised bed. And by “building” I mean using a drill to put together 4 pieces of plywood. My youngest daughter helped me, and even though we are strong powerful women, neither of us had used a drill before. (I’m embarrassed to say that.) But we successfully figured it out and built the bed.

From there, I’ve continued to plant and water and learn. And, record it all on video.

If you visit SJ Magazine’s Facebook page, you can watch this quest of mine play out in a video series we’re calling “The goal is to become a gardener.” The Facebook series has introduced me to a community of people who either totally relate and are going to learn along with me, or they already have a beautiful garden and they’re cheering me on. Either way, it’s been so great to read everyone’s helpful comments.

A few hours after planting the green beans, I mentioned to Joe what I had done. He said, “You mean, green beans you eat?” (He was a little stunned.)

“Yeah,” I said.

“We’ll be able to actually eat what you planted today?”

“Yes, we’ll be able to eat them.” I said that with a great deal of confidence, even though I have no idea. I’m just giving it my best try. And hoping I really do become a gardener. That’s the goal.

August 2020
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