Resolutions plant the seeds of another successful year

THE REAL DIRT

January 04, 1992|By Mike Klingaman

For years I have vowed to clean up the compost heap, straighten the potting shed and change my garden ways. This year I'm going to do it.

I have made my gardening resolutions for 1992, and I aim to keep them. Tying a string, or even an earthworm, around my finger is a waste of time. I will remember my vows. A new year dawns, and this gardener plans to turn over a new leaf. In fact, I'll even rake up the old ones.

I pledge to take gardening less seriously than in the past. For instance, I will no longer treat an invasion of Mexican bean beetles as though I were defending the Alamo instead of the vegetable patch.

I promise to stop worrying about the welfare of the crops while we are away on vacation. No more fretting about the bugs and slugs back home. No more calling the neighbors for tomato reports while we're gone. I'm certain I can control my fears, so long as we hit the Maryland beaches in December.

I will rearrange things in the garden shed so that I don't have to wrestle with the Christmas tree stand to get to the lawn mower this spring. I'll also have the mower serviced this month, instead of waiting until the grass is as long as the line in the repair shop.

My tools will receive better care, I swear. I promise to bring the garden hose inside for the winter, once I dig it out from beneath the snow. Never again will I absent-mindedly lay the pruning saw on the grass and run over it with the mower. (Then out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, people sprang from their homes to see what was the matter . . .)

Having resolved to be physically fit by spring, I've prepared a special exercise program tailored for gardeners. Basically, I clock myself running from the garden to the medicine cabinet, both on one leg and two.

Some of my resolutions may seem frivolous. I want to eat a squash blossom. I want to measure the asparagus daily to see how fast it grows. And I want to raise flower plants in my old garden shoes. Why not? The shoes are still full of dirt from the last time I wore them. I may as well recycle them. Besides, the shoes will certainly smell better when they are filled with sweet alyssum.

I have promised separate garden plots for both our daughter and the dog. Beth, who has always helped with the planting, is now old enough to help with the planning as well. At 10, she can manage her own garden. Katydid, the dog, isn't nearly that bright. But she is smart enough to dig up my vegetables, so I'll reserve a special plot for her filled with carrots and beans, two of her favorite foods.

Above all, I've resolved to keep my eye on the summer squash, harvesting them before they reach mammoth proportions. Sometimes I'll overlook a giant zucchini that is hiding beneath its foliage. Beth has been known to put a large squash in the kiddie swing and push it as she would a baby brother.

I also promised Beth the answers to two questions: Why did one branch of our azalea bloom on Thanksgiving Day? And how could three dandelions flower on the lawn in December?

I promised the garden a well-deserved soil test. It has been seven years since my plot had a check-up. I have a soil thermometer with which I take the garden's temperature. Each spring I add compost, manure and limestone, assuming that the soil is as healthy as ever. Maybe it is. But I'd feel better if my garden belonged to an HMO (horticultural maintenance organization). The county extension service has some excellent plant doctors.

Several New Year's resolutions will be hard to keep. I have vowed to remove all rocks from the garden, something I've failed to do in 16 years. The Rototiller turns up a new batch each year. The odds are slightly better that I will grow a ripe tomato by the Fourth of July: It's happened once before.

Finally, the back yard has become so shady that I am determined to start a small vegetable garden out front. However, Rototilling the front yard raises sensitive residential concerns.

We don't want the neighbors to think our septic tank has collapsed.

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