A home garden can be a tough row to hoe

An amateur gardener looks at the humorous side of growing vegetables.

By , Special to The Stamford Advocate/Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service

Jerry, Jerry, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? Not too bad, considering I am more of a vegetable than anything I've planted this year. Actually, the little patch of earth on the side of the house is the first garden I have ever had. My wife, Sue, who has a green thumb (she really ought to see a doctor), could grow tomatoes in Death Valley. I, on the other hand, who have a dirty thumb, am responsible for making parts of our property look like that famous desert.

So when the only plant I could not kill, a gigantic butterfly bush, was removed earlier this year, I decided to put in herbs (nobody named Herb was harmed during planting) and various veggies (not including broccoli and zucchini, which I will consume only at the point of a gun) and turn the place into a Garden of Eatin'.

I was inspired to get into agriculture, which is the only culture I have, by President Barack Obama and his wife, first lady Michelle Obama, who recently planted a White House garden that is approximately the size of Rhode Island.

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Mine is somewhat smaller (83 inches by 64 inches, to be exact), but you have to start somewhere, and I didn't think the Secret Service would let me do so outside the Oval Office.

I went with Sue to one of those home-improvement warehouses to pick out what I wanted to plant.

"Do you like squash?" she asked as we walked through the garden department.

"I'd rather play tennis," I replied.

Sue ignored the remark and suggested we get vegetables I would actually eat, which narrowed the choices considerably. They included tomatoes, eggplants, jalapeno peppers, bell peppers, string beans, and cauliflower. We also got parsley, as well as basil and rosemary.

The planting itself was pretty hard work. I was about to throw in the trowel when I realized I wouldn't see the fruits of my labors. And since tomatoes are also considered fruits, I wasn't taking any chances, even though they were tough rows to hoe.

Speaking of rows, I could have used a rowboat -- or maybe even an ark -- after we had what seemed like 40 days and 40 nights of rain, which nearly caused a flood of biblical proportions. Sue said it was God's way of telling me that I couldn't be trusted to water the garden.

I got the hint, however, and when the rain finally stopped, I began giving the garden a shower every evening. I give myself a shower every morning, but not outside.

To break up the monotony, I started talking to my tomato plants. But I stopped after I heard a report on the radio about how men can stunt the growth of their tomato plants when they talk to them. According to a study conducted by the Royal Horticultural Society in Surrey, England, tomato plants will respond to a woman's voice much better than they will to a man's and will grow up to an inch more when they hear soothing female sounds.

I thought only cauliflowers had ears, but I guess our world isn't called Mother Nature for nothing. When I told Sue about the study, she said, "Shall I go out to the garden and have a conversation with the tomato plants?"

She must have done so because we then had tomatoes the size of baseballs. (Imagine if it were basketball season.) I think the real reason the plants did so well, andweren't affected by the current fungus that has ruined many tomato crops, is that I no longer tell them stupid jokes when I water the garden.

At any rate, because of my tender care, or perhaps despite it, my garden grew just fine. We had several delicious meals featuring string beans, jalapenos and parsley, and plenty more when the tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers and cauliflowers  were ready to eat. Maybe then, if they're not too busy tending their own garden, we'll invite the Obamas over for dinner.

Editor’s note: For more on gardening, see the Monitor’s main gardening page, which offers articles on many gardening topics. Also, our blog archive and our RSS feed. You may want to visit Gardening With the Monitor on Flickr. Take part in the discussions and get answers to your gardening questions. If you join the group (it’s free), you can upload your garden photos and enter our next contest. We’ll be looking for photographs of fruits. So find your best shots of summer’s blueberries, peaches, plums, etc., and get out your camera to take some stunning shots of early fall apples. Post them before Sept. 30, 2009, and you could be the next winner.

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