Help!

I’m a gardener. With a problem.

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ILLUSTRATIONS BY HANNAH ENGLAND

I need help. I am a Maine gardener. I don’t mean I need help because I attempt to grow fruit and vegetables in Maine—in the mountains, no less. That’s a sickness for which there is no cure. What I mean is I need help because my garden is growing. I don’t mean the vegetables are growing, although they are. I mean my gardens are growing—in size and number…alarmingly so.

I hung my head in shame and whimpered, “I want them all.”

Maybe it’s because so many of my friends are farmers and gardeners, and I’m trying to keep up—with all of them. Maybe I’m awed by the everyday miracle of seeds. (I recently read that $1 of seeds produces $20 of food.)

Maybe I’m just nuts. (Can we grow those here? If you know how, call me.) Maybe the size of my garden reflects my fascination with food facts. Did you know pumpkin seeds help you sleep? (I always wanted a pumpkin patch and soon mine will rival Charlie Brown’s. [Linus Van Pelt’s, actually—Your Stickler-For-The-Facts Editor.]) Did you know pumpkin is a fruit? Bananas are not. They are herbs. Did you know rhubarb strengthens tooth enamel?

I’ve planted an entire alphabet of squash—from acorn to zucchini. And when I look at my backyard, I see a sea of veggies: corn, carrots, cucumbers, and cabbage. (Get it? A “c” of veggies?)

I’m in love with my compost pile—it’s tall, dark, and handsome. Rich, too! I pay more attention to what I feed it than what I fed my children. I know they didn’t get as many fruits and vegetables. (I remember once asking my then-teenage daughter if she’d eaten a vegetable that day. After thinking for a moment, she asked, “Does pepperoni count?”)

I went out to lunch with a friend who had been out of the country pretty much our entire planting season. Laura wanted to know what I’d been doing while she was away.

“I’ve been gardening,” I told her. “I put in a huge vegetable garden—two, actually. I’ve become obsessed. It’s getting scary. I can’t bring myself to throw out a seedling, I just build another garden for it! Laura, please help me!”

“Would you like some tomato plants?” she asked.

After a very brief, shocked silence, I blurted, “Of course!”

“How about some potatoes and onions?”

“YES! I don’t have potatoes or onions!” I cried. “I need potatoes and onions!”

“Of course you do, onions are fun to grow. I also have sunflower, nasturtium, cosmos, and zinnia seeds, if you’d like.”

I hung my head in shame and whimpered, “I want them all.”

“OK,” Laura said. “I’ll come this afternoon and help you put them in your garden. I’ll bring some romaine lettuce plants, too.”

I told you I needed help. And she’s giving it to me, right?

Why? What did you think I meant?


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