Friday, July 6, 2012

Gardening in Georgia: Round Two

We all want one thing: a good singing voice to be able to garden without larvae boring into the vines of our plants and making babies in the stems.

Last year, this was not the case for me. In fact, my first real go-around at gardening in the South led to several nervous breakdowns. And I do mean breakdowns -- crying, irrational vows ("I will never go outside again"), difficulty breathing. My garden was taken over by a number of southern demons, and I eventually dreaded that fifteen-second walk to the corner of the yard, for fear I would discover a new evil lurking among my plants. One event, in particular, cemented my plan to never garden again.

Towards the last bit of summer, when my tomatoes finally started showing up, I noticed a spider web building in the corner of the bed. This didn't really bother me, since I see a million spiders around my garden all the time, and people are always saying things about how spiders are good natural predators and a vital part of "nature," and nonsense like that. So, for several weeks, I just ignored the growing web and simply reached around it each time I needed to procure some growing tomatoes near the corner of the bed.

One day, I came out to the garden to discover the familiar spider web swarming with hundreds of little reddish-brown specks. Baby spiders! It was reminiscent of Charlotte's Web or something from a nature show. So, more than anything, I found the small spiders intriguing and watched for awhile as they scurried all over their web and each other. I knew I was going to kill the spiders, but I thought Andrew might be interested in this miracle of life, so I ran inside to get him and some spider spray. Then we both headed out to the garden, barefoot, to say goodbye to the new spider family. As Andrew sprayed a misty cloud of spider killer over the colony, I craned my neck down near the action, and watched the brown bodies scatter under their impending death.

And then, out from the belly of Sheol emerged the mother. And then I started not breathing well.

What emerged was a very large, very angry, very glossy black spider, complete with a red hourglass on her belly. And it hit me. For the past few weeks, I had been reaching my hand around a black widow spider -- a black widow spider I had inadvertently let give birth in my garden. And not to one baby, but to a gazillion babies. (Curse you, Wilbur!) My garden was not a fairy haven of flower blossoms and hearty vegetables. It was a breeding ground for the devil.  And at that moment, I made a decision that I would have no part in this abominable affair.

So I decided I would never garden in Georgia again.

So imagine my surprise and frustration a few months ago when I came outside and discovered this:

big garden

Ok, so not really this exactly, since I took this picture a few weeks ago, but I discovered a smaller, tamer version of this. The recent growth was confusing to me, because in January, I had pulled out all the plants from my garden, weeded, and tilled the soil. And I hadn't planted anything new. What I discovered, however, around March, was that the plants had planted themselves. Basically, no one cared about what I wanted, and essentially I had basil and tomatoes and parsley growing everywhere.

So I was faced with a dilemma: embrace the plants that nature had grown, or tear them out to ensure minimal bug drama this spring. Obviously, I went with the whole "welcome back, plants" approach, but with a strong sense of caution. I bought my tomatoes some of those wire things that help them grow straight, and I agreed to water the plants and enjoy their fruits, but I told them I would not be responsible for any worms, spiders, or other crawling creatures from the shadows that might seek to live in the garden or destroy it. And I think we have an understanding. So, in the meantime, I'm reaping the work I didn't really do.

The cherry tomatoes are everywhere:

green tomatoes

baby tomatoes

And I even have ripe tomatoes. In June. It's nuts.

And there are about 10 basil plants just doing their thing:

more basil


A parsley fountain:


And I even have Roma tomatoes, which, notably, all died last year when I tried to grow them:

roma tomatoes

I did make one impulse decision to plant jalapeños, because if I have tomatoes, I want to make salsa. Plus they are really cute:


And I had some sage in an indoor pot that I transplanted outside (more basil is already growing next to it):


But now, just a few weeks from the time I took these pictures, it's already madness out there. Stinging things are always flying around. Buzzing things are dive bombing my face. Hostile bugs are biting me. Some other creature that bores into things is trying to incubate in the tomatoes. The parsley has died in the recent oven heat. And the only way I can find the strength to make the arduous and dreaded trek out to the garden each day is to recall this scene from The Lord of the Rings and shout phrases like, "Go back to the shadow!" And stand with the garden hose nozzle set to "JET."

But let's not forget how that scene ends.

I knew this wasn't a good idea.