EARTH EDUCATION: The season begins

McClatchy InteractiveApril 7, 2008 

I've never been a gardener. I can keep houseplants alive, but they survive in spite of me, not because of my horticultural talent. While my mom kept small garden patches in my youth, my greatest contribution to their life cycle was eating raspberries. My gardening education, in other words, has been inadequate.

The thing is, I have this lovely little patch in front of my house. It's spent most of the last five years overgrown with weeds - like I said, not a gardener - but last year it occurred to me that perhaps it could become, well, sightly. And useful. I wasn't working nights anymore, and I needed something to fill my evenings. So I started pulling weeds and digging roots.

I don't know how long it's been since anything grew in that spot on purpose, but there were a LOT of old roots and junk in there. After awhile I went to Target and bought actual gardening tools - a trowel, a hand rake (apparently called a cultivator), a kneeling pad, and gloves - so I could attack my bit of earth with greater vigor.

Once I dug it up, though, I couldn't figure out what to do with it. Was it too late to plant? If not, what did I want? I bought a couple of herb plants at the farmers' market, then went out of town before planting them and killed them. I did manage to get the mint going, but you could set mint on fire and it would still take over your yard. Pretty soon the weeds came back. My little plot sat empty and sad, a monument to my indecision and sloth.

But lo, a new year didst come upon us, and the seedlings didst return to the Lowe's Garden Center. And it was good.

So this year I'm really and truly going to plant stuff. We'll see what happens; this is more complicated than I imagined. You put seeds in the ground and water them, right? Snort. Different things need to be planted at different times, and at different depths. Some plants like their soil more acid; others prefer it alkaline. I have two small plots with completely different types of soil, and at least one of them is going to need assistance if I want to grow anything there. I am not a good organizer. There are a hundred different points where this project could go off the rails.

If it does, though, I'll write about it. I'll be keeping a journal of my horticultural maiden voyage. If any gardeners out there have tips for me, or if I do something hideously and shockingly wrong, tell me. I can take it. I'll also be keeping a blog, with pictures of the garden's progress.

Wish me luck, and let the games begin.

Kristen Halverson has found it is hard to get all the dirt out from under her fingernails. Email her at khalverson@mcclatchyinteractive.com.

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