In the spring, I plant a garden. Please, please, do not mistake this for an organic hipster garden that is planted as a teaching moment for the children or a Southern Living-style kitchen potager with rows of boxwood-lined paths. The garden I have consists mostly of leggy sproutlings purchased at Walmart and hastily thrown into the ground as I yell at the children to put the spade down and stop flinging dirt at their sister. My garden ain’t pretty, and it generally doesn’t yield much that we can eat, but I plant it because I have to. I required by law to do so because one day I will be an Old Italian Person, and if I’m going to cavort through the tomatoes with my grandchildren like Marlon Brando in The Godfather, I have to have the kind of skills that Old Italian People have. That means I have to have a garden, even if it is purely ceremonial. In that sprit, come springtime, I usually scratch out a spot and plant tomatoes, basil, and oregano along with some other half-hearted herbs that quickly die from neglect.
This year, however, I was feeling aspirational. I decided I was going to have a REAL garden, dammit, so I got cocky and purchased mail-order seeds from the online store at Monticello. Now, I know in my heart that I am more of a Ben Franklin than a Thomas Jefferson. Ol’ Ben was a sloppy journalist with a penchant for French food and theatrical dinner party stories. Jefferson was worse than all fiends of Pinterest combined. But my visions of porticos and bourbon got the better of me, so I ordered seeds – real, live little seeds in the packets and everything – before I realized I hadn’t grown anything from seed since I sprouted an avocado pit in kindergarten.
“No matter!,” I said to myself. “The internet knows everything!,” I said, so when my seeds came a few weeks ago, I looked up the date of the last frost in the Farmer’s Almanac, bought little plastic terrariums, counted out the Genovese Tomatoes and Texas Bird Peppers and Prickly Spinach, and watered my seeds into the coconut husk pellets as I was told. I then put them on top of the dog’s cage (a cool indoor place out of direct sunlight), where I have since visited them each morning to say warm and encouraging things and see if they have grown.
And guess what? Out of the dozens of seeds I planted and the money and time I spent, I am now the proud owner of exactly three sad, stalky, 1-inch-high tomato spouts, each with leaves smaller than a chunk of spinach you might floss from between your teeth.
Honestly, I am not surprised. I think they know I am a Franklin, not a Jefferson. I think they know I can’t have nice things like Prickly Spinach. I know they look longingly at my stack of Martha Stewart Living magazines and wonder why they had to come to live here while their brethren get to stay up late, get fancy row tags, and eat organic chicken poop.
I still have grand hopes for these tomatoes, however, so I am giving them a few more weeks on the dog cage before they go into the garden. Let us hope that their plucky spirit will sustain them as they face the Georgia clay, the high probability of trampling, and those awful redneck neighbors I plan to buy for them at Walmart.
Hi. I'm Amanda Dobbs.