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Archive for Wednesday, April 9, 2003

His and her gardens provide compromise

April 9, 2003

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I've often envied people who can garden with the person they live with. In my household, we've had my garden and my husband's garden since shortly after I threw myself into vegetable gardening with obsessive-compulsive abandon.

Even though my husband's interest in growing fresh produce piqued my own, we have never been able to do it together. As a traditional wide-row gardener who wants to be able to run a rototiller in between all the rows, he immediately was turned off by my desire to experiment with different garden layouts.

We reached our first impasse when I made the unilateral decision to set up a couple of flower beds in the garden to attract beneficial insects and sort of pretty up the place. The look on his face, when he realized that I had even outlined these flower beds with rocks, was one of intense dismay. To his way of thinking, flower beds in a vegetable garden are obstacles to efficient weeding.

Same thing with the soaker hoses I began stringing throughout the garden. Once you mulch, the hoses are covered up and the tiller chops right through them. The fact that I knew where they were didn't impress him in the least.

I was trying to recall when, exactly he started his own small garden -- whether it was after I planted our entire fenced-in garden, which measures about 70 by 35 feet, and forgot to leave room for the melons, or whether it was the year after my tomato crop failed.

In any case, we now have my garden and his garden -- his being a space where he plants his "insurance policy" tomatoes and melons. Point taken.

This spring, after I realized that I wouldn't be able to plant my big garden because of recent surgery, I found my curiosity straying into That Other Space. He's been tilling it up, getting it ready to go, and one naturally wonders what exactly he plans to do with it this year.

I also sense that this is a subject fraught with danger.

When I attempted to probe recently, I got a series of short answers and no encouragement to offer any of my extremely helpful suggestions.

The conversation went something like this:

"What are you going to plant?"

"Tomatoes, melons and strawberries."

"How many tomato plants?"

"Four."

"Why are you putting strawberries there?"

"Because it's tilled up and they need to be planted now."

"Do you think the soil there drains well enough for strawberries?"

Silence.

When I broached the subject of my husband's plans for his garden, I was sort of thinking in terms of him putting in at least six tomato plants and possibly squeezing in some bell peppers and a little okra, maybe even a bean tower. I have since decided that minding my own business was the better part of marital diplomacy.

Instead of meddling in his garden space, I'm now thinking of planting a few stands of okra where I usually seed some annuals into my flower beds. After all, okra has gorgeous blooms and the burgundy variety, with its dark red vegetation, offers a nice contrast in a flower garden. I also should be able to squeeze the bell peppers into my herb garden.

And maybe, just for insurance, I'll find a spot for a couple extra tomato plants and a melon hill.

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