CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I thought having a vegetable garden would be relaxing. Growing our own food would not only be thrifty, but environmentally conscientious and a learning opportunity -- a chance for my daughter to experience the transformation from seed to sprouting plant to device for delivering salt and ranch dressing.
I thought working in the sun and the dirt would be good exercise.
It was exercise, all right. In futility.
We planted our first garden not long after moving into our South Charleston home. It was just a few tomato plants that first year, and when those few plants failed to thrive, we blamed the location. Not enough morning sun. We noted what part of the yard was sunnier so that we might fare better the following year.
The next year, we plotted our garden and bought a good bit of dirt, which we mixed with our own. We spent hours sifting rocks and roots from the dirt, breaking down clumps with bare hands. We read what plants should be on inside rows and which should be out, and we followed the Farmer's Almanac's advice on when we should plant.
We even bought well-established starter plants rather than gamble on starting from seed. We watered with Miracle Gro and plucked weeds, and for our efforts were rewarded with tall, gorgeous plants. Not one of which produced more than a few pea-sized tomatoes. Our cucumber plants didn't yield a single baby gerkin. Not even a preemie.
A wise-sounding neighbor said our oak trees were to blame. Said they made our soil acidic. Said we needed to heavily lime the ground before winter then again in the spring. We followed his advice to the letter. We watered regularly, weeded faithfully, debugged and derabbited. And for our efforts, we have a garden filled with lush, healthy-looking plants, thick vines and stalks.
And no produce.
With all the money we've invested attempting to grow our own, we could've bought a truckload of veggies.