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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Garden Envy

I get an inferiority complex every time I visit The Natural Gardener plant nursery.

It’s not the staff. They are the very definition of helpful and friendly. Nor is it the breadth of plant materials. I’m pretty knowledgeable about most kinds of plants and am getting better with native Texas flora. And it’s not the customers. I usually end up helping people while I’m there. It’s the Master Gardener plant-desk hot-line-answerer in me that dispenses garden advice when asked. I guess I either look like I know what I’m doing (is it the dirty clothes and the floppy hat?), or I’m just there and have a friendly face.

No, it’s their dang demonstration garden that makes me feel totally inadequate. All those lovely raised beds with the square-foot gardening planting method illustrated to perfection. The plants are huge, the colors are vibrant, and there isn’t a weed in sight.

Yes, I know they have “staff” to take care of this. Yes, I know that they actually get to see their garden every day – unlike me who has to leave and come home in the dark during the week. Yes, they have all that great soil and custom made fertilizer. It doesn’t matter. I still walk away thinking that I should have something just as stunning growing in my yard.

Yet when I get home and look at my patch, it’s really not that bad. My front yard is really nice, by my standards, and full of interesting things to look at. People stop all the time to admire it and tell both Ed and I how much they enjoy it. The back yard is less landscaped, but still orderly and purposeful. I explain to people that it’s my production agriculture space. I have it arranged in an interesting way with my raised beds serving as a crown around my herb bed. My trees are still young, but they will be stunning in a few years when they form my fruit orchard hedge.

And my vegetable beds aren’t that boring. I mass plant everything and forego rows and precision placement – I get more yield that way. I tend to rotate the varieties I plant and can have purple carrots, red yard-long beans and blue potatoes at any time. My Swiss chard is gorgeous, my citrus trees smell heavenly, and the purple kohlrabi looks like space aliens. I’ll have fat swallowtail caterpillars on my fennel and dill, orange fritillary butterflies plaguing my passion vines, and a regular patrol of mockingbirds, cardinals, doves, and blue jays very soon. The green anole lizards are going to love my rock patio and I should have toads hanging out in the compost, and chirping frogs living in the rain gutters. Hummingbirds and dragonflies buzz around the herbs so much that it can be hazardous to go out and harvest.

Hmm. Maybe the folks from The Natural Gardener should come to MY house.