I love a vegetable garden. I have one of Martha Stewart’s gardening books. But, try as I may, year upon year, my “before” and “after” pictures never look like hers. I should buy one of the famous thin books on gardening. My thin book would be Gardening by Martha Stewart, The Zombie Edition. It would have one page that read “Stop wasting your time and money. You are a failure. Buy attractive faux plants and be gone.”
Still, I try. I fill cardboard egg cartons with soil and fresh veggie seeds from the store. I have them in partial sun. I play classical music, I talk to them. Maybe that’s why they don’t grow—they don’t want to hear me anymore.
Recently, I watched a cooking show that stated there are male and female eggplants. The male eggplants are slimmer, with a small stem cap, the females are larger, more bulbous and have seeds. Wait a minute—male and female eggplants? Why are the TV chefs just telling us now? What other plants have male/female gender identities? Is there a male and female zucchini? Squash? Tomatoes? What’s going on here? Just what are my plants doing under their expensive dirt? Is this why my pumpkins never grow? Forcing me, every October, to buy plastic pumpkins that I roll in the dirt and tuck among the pumpkin leaves so they look natural?
Could it be that in all my years of trying to raise a veggie garden, I have missed that, in addition to vitamins, sun and water, my plants have needed a mate? Someone to grow with, put down roots together, encourage each other to grow, and sometimes even produce an offshoot?
How, in all my liberal years, did I miss plant gender sensitivity? I feel like my liberal card is short one punch to qualify for the framed picture of Eleanor Roosevelt. I bet she knew what her garden grew.
But here’s the conundrum: There are no markings on the seed packets to indicate gender. Plus, all the seeds look the same. So, the only way to know if you planted a him or her zucchini is to wait for a veggie to show up, which might not happen without a mate.
Growing vegetables in rows is surely an error. What if you plant five girl squash in a row? No summer squash for you, that’s what. The only remedy is to plant seedlings together in a cluster, so they can cluster commune, puff pollen at each other, show off their pistils and stamins, intertwine roots and produce tender young veggies in a mutually supportive milieu.
I feel guilty. All this time I thought my green peppers never grew because they had some kind of vendetta against me. Now, I feel so silly. They just wanted a grow buddy.
What else don’t I know about veggies? Do they crave privacy while growing? Is that why I always find the biggest veggies hiding under the steps or broad leaves? I always thought they were hiding from deer and killer bunnies. Science has proven plants grow better with soft classical music, so maybe they don’t want us to watch either.
All right: This spring, everybody gets planted with their group. No fraternizing, roots to yourself. No sneaky offshoots either!