It’s April and the signs of spring are everywhere. Neighborhoods are humming with the sound of mowers, pruning shears and children playing outside.
The Arkansas Traveler, the Celebrity, the Black Krim and the Sweet 100 are all in their pots, instructed to produce tomatoes by June. The salvia, peonies and clematis are again providing green to the recently bare garden that is our sanctuary.
And the lines in the dirt have already been drawn. What a pity that one of my favorite seasons creates turf wars in my marriage.
My husband and I both love gardening. You might think that would be a good thing. And you would be wrong, because we are polar opposites in our philosophies. I am a lover of the wild and English styled gardens. The taller, wispier, bushier and more crowded the yard, the better for me. My husband is a man of order and specimen. He prefers trim and tidy hedges. Two of most things, lined up square.
I am a wait-and-see gardener. If a plant can’t survive under natural conditions, I move it. If it still doesn’t thrive, it’s not meant for me. Mike, on the other hand, goes searching a treatment at the first sign of a yellow leaf or insect. Curious, since he will carry a headache for three days before reaching for an aspirin.
In previous years, we have debated on how to treat dandelions (four, to be exact), aphids and a sickly Oakleaf hydrangea. *
He spends days researching and making phone calls to services. I bite my nails and offer one of two solutions- more water or less water.
This year the debate was tomatoes. I have always planted mine like my grandmother did, burying the plant deep (up to the first few leaves). Roots form on the stem and leaves that are buried, she said, making the plant sturdier (and better equipped to produce tomatoes). Mike insists that the more developed a plant is when you bury it, the sooner you’ll have tomatoes**
His planting method is both tender and conistent. Everything he plants gets his undivided attention. He fills each hole carefully with water before placing the plant inside. I don’t have that kind of patience. As soon as I dig the hole, the plant is dropped in. Ceremoniously, but quickly, I wave my hand over each freshly-buried tomato and let Osmocote do the rest.
So this year the tomatoes are his and hers. It’s not really a contest, though part of me wants to win.
What I want most is tomatoes and that decision is in nature’s hands. Before long a perfect combination of plants will emerge from every corner of our yard and remain beautiful throughout the year. And we will have done almost nothing to keep them looking that way.
This morning I walked the garden, camera in hand, noticing everything that was new. Mike sifted some of the rich soil from the vegetable garden through his fingers. “You know what we should do now…,” he began. I took pictures of the peony, the iris and the amaryllis, and walked quickly into the house.
After 33 years I know there is only one solution to the trials of spring in this relationship—May.
* Oakleaf hydrangea One of the hardiest shrubs we’ve ever grown. Turns out, the ‘infestation’ was a burrow of baby bunnies. We were both wrong.
** Not his words, of course.