“Mirthright: The Law of the Harvest: Ignorance Is No Excuse,” Ensign, July 1985, 72
They got the beans, nibbling away diabolically during the harvest season, when I couldn’t spray, but they’re not getting the tomatoes.
Well … tomatoes have never really been the bright spot in my hamburger. But they’re not getting the squash, even if I have to stand guard out there with the world’s tiniest shotgun!
I confess, as a former apartment dweller, I am no gardener. But I’m not going to be beaten by a bunch of critters so small that the whole gang can hide out on the shady side of a pea pod.
I was more familiar with growing things in the semitropical area where I lived as a boy. There was, for example, the oleander hedge, where Mom made me cut my own switches for spankings. I knew better than to climb the thorny mesquite trees, or disturb the wasp nests in Grandma’s canebrake. On a hot day, I would step into the cotton field and burrow my burning bare feet into the cool, loose dirt on the shady side of the plants.
But in the temperate zone I am out of my botanical frame of reference—sort of a Rip Van Bungle of the garden. I have strictly a nodding acquaintance with the plants there. Of course, I’m careful about it. The plants can nod all they want, but I don’t stand around much in the garden nodding back, particularly when the neighbors are about. Some say talking to one’s plants can help them grow. Perhaps. But the first (and last) time I stood in the middle of the garden lecturing the beans about tangling with just any riffraff that might sprout in the next row, I noticed the neighbor boy glancing nervously my way.
Flowers attract my attention more than food crops, because they are generally prettier. They are quite shy, however, and I am not very outgoing either, so the flowers and I are not on a first-name basis. Zinnia? I thought that was the name of a pioneer woman. Daffodil? Wasn’t he a cartoon character who used to cross paths with Bugs Bunny?
Not long ago, I undertook to weed my wife’s flower garden. Rainy weather had given the weeds a good start, and I pulled with a vengeance. I discarded one particularly luxuriant specimen, only to come across another just like it a few feet away. Then I noticed there were several more, spaced very regularly in the garden.
I may not know plants, but I know when I’m in trouble. Quickly I sorted through my discard pile and found that elegant “weed,” then replanted it as best I could.
Soon my spouse came to inspect my work. She surveyed the garden with the sweet, approving smile that only a wife can bestow when her husband has finally seen the light about doing his share of the tasks around the home. I thought my error might go unnoticed. But suddenly her brow furrowed and her eyes narrowed; even the weeds withered before that glance!
I haven’t touched the flower garden since, and I’m sure it’s just as well. The portulaca I victimized cringes each time I come up the front sidewalk.
Still, I’m determined to make a success of gardening, and there has been progress, with cherries and peaches this year from our small trees, and strawberries from the plants I missed when I overdid things a bit with the weed spray last summer.
A few years ago, I planted some corn, but it didn’t do well. My father-in-law the farmer said it was the first corn he had ever seen with cauliflower ears. For next year, though, I have a plan. I’m going to use the old American Indian technique of planting fish under my corn to help it grow.
There’s only one problem with that; I’m no fisherman, either. But that difficulty can be easily overcome. I know where I can get a great deal on frozen breaded fish patties.