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A Seedy Guy : River Valley edition : Sunday, 23 February 2020 00:01 EST : a service of The Public Press
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A Seedy Guy

     by Stephen Morris

I don't know why, but gardening brings out the stupid in me. And I'm not alone.

When I proposed this essay, the editor of this fine journal confessed that he and his wife diligently rototill and sow seeds each May, then do absolutely nothing until August when their weed forest has reached chin high.

When I proposed this essay, the editor of this fine journal confessed that he and his wife diligently rototill and sow seeds each May, then do absolutely nothing until August when their weed forest has reached chin high.

That's not my sin, but I readily confess to many others. How many times have I dressed in my best, then wandered out to the garden in that span of time between when we are supposed to go and when my "other" is ready to go. I see one weed despoiling what is otherwise a perfect patch of lettuce. As I bend to get it, mindful of protecting my clean trousers, I spy another one just a little farther in, then another just beyond that.

Soon I notice that I am kneeling in the dirt. To make matters worse I track dirt onto the freshly washed kitchen floor.quiet zone

Look ... if you want serious gardening advice, read Henry Homeyer, the real garden columnist in this magazine. If, however, you want to snicker at the frailty of the human condition and to find solace because someone, somewhere is more incompetent than you, read on.

This story begins in the dreary days of November, just before the local nursery closes its doors. The hand-scrawled sign read "All seeds $0.10." What can you buy for ten cents these days? The only human emotion that trumps logic is greed. These same seeds set me back $2.50 a pop in April. Moreover, these are the politically correct seeds––organic, exotic, authentic, local, and heirloom. You gotta buzzword? It's on this package.
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Ten bucks goes a long way, and I am now proud owner of a genetic storehouse that, properly germinated, could feed Central Vermont from Montpelier to Rutland. Occasionally, during the depths of winter's depravity, I take out my seed tin and spread the gay, colorful packets on the coffee table. "All mine," I cackle in delirious, congratulatory laughter, "They're all mine!"

My little jewels include seven varieties of peppers––Habañero, Cayenne, Tabasco Greenleaf, Hungarian Yellow Wax, Jalapeno, Canary Bell, and Calwonder. I smell another blue ribbon!

Henry Homeyer might tell you that out-of-date seeds do not germinate at the same rate as new. Henry Homeyer might say that peppers are not native to the Zone 3 climate of Vermont, and that to successfully cultivate peppers, one must be prepared to nurture the seeds in a temperature-controlled, light supplemented environment.

Morris says Henry Homeyer should get a life. He might know gardening, but he doesn't know the feeling of organic testosterone coursing through the blood on that first warm day in March. On a day like this, Vermont becomes a Zone 7. I don't care what any of those maps with the squiggly lines say.

Thus, it came to pass that when the temperature finally broke fifty degrees, I hauled my supply of peat pots and potting soil to the shed. I was not phased by the skim of ice in the watering can, blinded as I was with visions of colorful pepper exotica.

The first challenge is opening the seed packet. Am I the only person who has difficulty opening a package clearly marked "E-Z opening, resealable envelope?" There is nothing "e-z" about this. I fumble with the packet as if I have large zucchini fingers duct-taped to my wrists. Jerry Lee Lewis plays the piano with his foot with more dexterity.

After pawing at the "E-Z opening" for a few minutes I remember that real men just rip off the top of the package. True, the unused seeds tend to empty into your jacket pocket, but that's an occupational hazard.

Here's another technical nuance, coming from someone who, more than once, has inadvertently thrown his $350 prescription glasses into the compost. Gardening has been added to that expanding list of activities that I cannot do without my reading glasses. Gardening involves water and dirt. Water plus dirt equals mud. To function properly, glasses must be transparent. Glasses covered with mud do not function properly. People wearing muddy glasses look amusing to "others," a politically inclusive term that includes "co-habitants," "significant others," "partners," "mates," "pos-il-qs," and "girl friends."

Snickering "others" risk having their faces rearranged by frustrated gardeners wearing muddy glasses holding mangled seed packages.

Now, we enter the rapid fire, garden stupidity bonus round.. Question: how many cherry tomato plants does it take to supply this household? Answer: two. Question: why did you just plant twenty-five cherry tomatoes? Answer: because I had twenty-five seeds and the packages only cost $0.10 each.

How many fennel bulbs have you eaten in your life? Answer: uh-h-h, I think one, but I may have it confused with radicchio. Question: why did you just plant thirty?

Question: how many watermelons have you successfully harvested since living in Vermont? Answer: After nearly thirty years, rounded to the nearest whole number .... well, I don't remember precisely ... umm-m-m, but approximately none.

If my seedling ship comes in, I will have fennel, eggplant, and melons by Bennington Battle Day. Here it is barely April Fool's, and my garden is completely planted. Eat your heart out Henry Homeyer!

Stephen Morris is a business consultant and writer who lives in Randolph. He is the founder of The Public Press (www.thepublicpress.com).

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