July 8, 2016

The Myth of the Green Thumb

The other day I was out front weeding and deadheading my flowerbeds, when one of our more talkative neighbors came by. "You are just a gardening fool, aren't you?" was his comment.
I had to agree that the description fit me rather well. Almost inevitably, the next comment to come along was, "Oh, you have such a green thumb."

Can we talk about this for just a moment?
If "green thumb" means someone who knows a lot about plants, mmm--okay I'll take it.
(Even though what I know is just the tip of the iceberg, really.)
If it means someone who loves gardening--yes! Guilty as charged.
If it means that somehow all plants flourish under my care--HA HA HA HA HA !

Friends, I kill plants all. the. time. 
Sure, my average has gotten better over the years. Just like anything you put a lot of time and effort into learning, some of that eventually sticks. I still think of myself as in the intermediate range of gardening knowledge. I've pretty much mastered the basics, but I am always finding out more.
"Finding out more" is used here to mean "killing off a few more plants."

You see, I'm pretty much a self-taught gardener. My dad is a farmer at heart and knows all kinds of stuff about it, but we lived in rural Alaska for most of my life, so there wasn't much of a chance to learn from him.
(He is my # 1 phone consultant!) 
What this means is that I have learned through trial and error. Mostly error.
Lots and lots of error--that I then learn from.
At least, that is the hope.

I regularly kill off stuff like garden vegetables that seem like they should be easy, because they don't really change from year to year. Sometimes they just die. Already this year my spinach died (some disease) and one round of cucumbers likewise bit the dust (probably should have covered them during that cold snap.) Oh yes, and the honeydew melons I planted from starts--goners.

Hanging on by the merest threads are the flowers in my one hanging basket, one of my new echinacea plants and one of my new monarda plants.
Let's not even talk about the houseplant situation. It's pretty dire.
Also, the slope out back? Not called "the Hill of Death" for nothing!

I have gotten measurably better at not buying more than I can get into the ground that same day--or within a few days at most. So hey, at least most of my stuff now dies in the ground instead of in the little 4-inch pots from the nursery. That's got to be an improvement.

So, I guess what I'm saying is: don't despair if you're a plant killer! I am, too.
Learn a little more about what should do well there, based on the light and soil, then just keep plopping something else in until you find a plant that really thrives. 
Then plant more of that!

Later on, when your neighbors call you a gardening fool, claim that green thumb proudly!
(Just don't mention the latest sorry specimen you recently dumped on the compost heap.) 

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