Sunday, June 6, 2010


No, folks. That was not really a life-threatening domestic disturbance you heard yesterday afternoon - just me and my husband screaming at each other over the planting of the vegetable garden - a yearly ritual that has taken place ever since I can remember us having a vegetable garden.

We have different visions, he and I. I think that, on some level, every year I am trying to reproduce the vegetable garden my Pop-Pop laid out every spring, webbing white string across the soil with surveyor-like precision; carefully planting the seeds along each string; gently covering the seeds with soil that was as soft and fluffy as cocoa powder. There were tomato plants staked in hopeful, marching band rows and corn that was always "knee high by the 4th of July". I can't help it - it's the garden I grew up with that pops into my head every February when I begin to think about buying plants and seeds - a garden as much artistic expression as it is practical and food-based. Ironic, because Pop-Pop's garden was there to feed a family of eight and provide a little income when the excess was sold. I always have to remind myself that he also had five kids, 13 acres and a tractor.

I don't know exactly what the dream garden in my husband's head looks like, but I imagine it's somewhat different. For all I know the vegetable garden of his childhood was a row of lettuce and a couple of tomato plants in pots languishing in the back of his parents' suburban quarter acre. I do know that, for him, it's all about experimentation. Cantaloupes? Sweet potatoes? Artichokes? Asparagus? It's more about getting a strange and intriguing assortment of stuff into the ground than about aesthetics.

We both love gardening, so this would seem to be a not mutually exclusive pairing, in spite of technique, so where does the conflict come into it?

Well, we get tired right off. I mean it's not as if we were farmers, exactly, though we both come from "farming stock". And there is the black-fly element which has driven even the most avid gardeners to shoving each other out of the way as they run for cover. And the witch grass. The witch grass certainly doesn't help. Mostly, I guess, it's just a matter of our competing visions - his for tastiness and variety (practical) and mine for display (ever my problem in this and many other things). Hence, the arguments every year.

Now that the yelling is done for this season, we'll go along through the summer, not unlike two old, yoked farm horses: one pulling ahead, the other lagging and keeping an eye out for a mouthful of clover in the furrow. Zigzagging our way across the field together we'll both arrive, more or less at the same time, at the same place.