Cultivating Good Intentions

THE REAL DIRT

January 02, 1994|By MIKE KLINGAMAN

It's crazy to make New Year's resolutions for the garden.

It's crazy because I can never remember them. Promises made in January, when the ground is frozen, are forgotten by March, when the garden thaws.

My life is filled with empty promises. In years past, I have pledged to clean my tools regularly, give the garden a tuneup (soil test), and curb my spending on seeds. Ha! Broken vows, all.

Some of my resolutions appear frivolous. Once I swore to capture a nematode, a tiny insect, and examine it under a microscope. I was tired of being hassled by a garden varmint that I'd never seen.

Well, I never found a nematode. I did find a normal toad, but he wouldn't fit under a microscope slide.

Nonetheless, this is a time for bold decrees. Thus I resolve, sort of, to attempt not to fail the following garden tasks:

* Eat some flowers. Fancy restaurants serve meals with batter-dipped squash blossoms, nasturtiums and even rose petals. All are easily grown in the garden, and virtually fat-free. Bring on the flowers! Why should bees have all the fun?

* Build a workable compost heap -- one that really creates compost, and not a cold slab of gooey leaves and frozen stalks whose half-life is akin to that of uranium. It's time to tear down Mount Slime and start over.

* Acquire enough garden hose to water the whole garden. No matter how much hose I buy, I'm always 10 feet short and wind up having to soak the farthest rows with a watering can.

* Name the mole that lives in the garden. I've been dogging the pesky critter for years, to no avail. I give up. We may as well bury the hatchet.

* Plant a seedbed that delivers a written message. Since the tTC president flies over our house en route to Camp David, I'd like him to look down on a garden that says, "Peas on earth."

* Grow a hummingbird garden, with sweet flowers to attract the tiny winged creatures. Of course, this job also requires raising catnip elsewhere in the garden to occupy the cats.

* Try moon-phase gardening. Its proponents say they grow bigger and better plants. I always thought the practice dumb; who can plant seeds in straight rows at night? But if there is an advantage to planting by the stars, I'll find it.

* Get a good set of garden tools at a yard sale. I've also seen lots of second-hand implements at flea markets, some in better shape than mine. What can I lose for a dollar or two?

* Sing to my plants. Music is supposed to stimulate their growth. I hope they like doo-wop.

* Run through the lawn sprinkler, at least once, with my daughter. And the dog.

* Mow the lawn in vertical rows instead of horizontal ones, for a change.

* Practice self-restraint, especially in early spring. I resolve to wait until the ground is dry before cultivating the soil, lest it form golf ball-sized clods that harden like concrete.

Also, I promise to wait the proper time for my seeds to germinate before digging them up to see what went wrong. Once I lost an entire row of spinach by exhuming the seed too soon.

* Decorate a cherry tomato plant for Christmas next summer. All I need is tinsel and a string of lights. The plant makes its own ornaments.

* Transplant a robust 3-foot pine tree from the vegetable patch. The tree, which my daughter named Furry, was part of her science project in elementary school. We placed a tiny seedling in that soft earth five years ago, hoping it would live. It flourished. Now it's time to kick Furry out of the nest.

* Improve the potato harvest. It couldn't get much worse. Last year I planted 10 pounds of spuds, and harvested only 5 pounds. That's a lousy rate of return, even during a recession.

* Learn to read a sundial. I can't figure out the one in our garden, probably because the second hand is missing.

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