I trailed Melody to the counter, carrying my five seedlings in a cardboard box. I don’t want five, I thought. I just want four, because they’re two-for-one, and we don’t have room for two melon plants and two more crazy squash plants.
But did I say anything? I did not. The sheer power of Melody’s perkiness, and the fact that, really at $1.25 or $2 or $3.50 per plant (but, remember, they’re two-for-one), it didn’t really matter anymore.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have no idea how much those seedlings cost. I just purchased them, willy-nilly, because it seemed to make Melody so very, very happy.
Steve was still nowhere to be found, so I wandered through the greenhouse in search of him. He didn’t appear until my hysteria level had nearly peaked, until I was nearly in tears because I didn’t want to make the decision about how many containers to buy until I’d had the conversation with him. We’re a couple. This was going to kill all our landlord’s grass down one side of the yard after we already dug up a plot on the other side. I wanted a unified front against any backlash.
Even though he had reappeared, there were still plenty of distractions to take his attention away from the subject at hand. This was at about the point when I realized I hadn’t had any caffeine yet that day.
But no matter, we plunged forward, back to the future: container city.
“What size containers do you want?” Melody asked, poised to enter many numbers into the cash register.
“You know, I have no idea,” I said. “What do you have?”
“Three gallon, five gallon, seven gallon, even bigger. It depends on what you want.”
I blinked back tears. Really. At this point, I just wanted to go back and hide in the car. “OK, I need to explain to you that I do not know what I’m doing with gardening, and I do not have any idea what those sizes mean in context of a tomato plant.”
“The bigger the pot, the better!” boomed an effusive man who I’ve seen at this garden center before. I don’t know if he manages it or just works there, but he’s no shrinking violet.
“Well, we’re trying to transplant,” I said, as if that would make a difference.
“Whiskey barrels!” he boomed. “That’s what I would do!”
“What does that mean?” I asked. I drink whiskey out of liter bottles, not barrels. I was a woman without context.
“They need room!” Now he was giving me a headache. “They grow tall!”
“I know,” I said. “We have tall tomato plants already. We’re trying to move them out from under a black walnut.”
“Black walnut?!” I could have never imagined the booming becoming louder, but, as it turned out, it was possible. “Those kill everything! I’ve seen those kill a plant in a day!”
“We found some plants that will survive it, though,” Melody said, turning to the man with her wide grin. Then she turned back to me. “You know what? Let me write down that list of plants for you.”
She whipped out a piece of scratch paper and a pencil and leaned forward over the counter. “OK, what did that site say? Beans, corn, canteloupe, squash…”
“Carrots,” I said.
“Right, carrots.” She pushed the paper across to me. “You can keep that for next year.”
I looked at Steve, hoping he would recognize the look in my eyes. The look that said I have to leave here within the next three minutes or all our problems will become substantial. Steve, wisely, stared at the seedlings.
I tucked the paper in my pocket.
“So, what size pots?” Melody asked.
“I really don’t know,” I said. “Can you recommend a size?”
“Bigger would be better,” boomed the man.
“How big do you have?” I asked.
“We have 20 gallon!” he boomed. “Fifty gallon!”
Melody, finally, realized that she might be about to lose a customer. “I think seven gallon would be fine,” she said. “How many?”
I looked at Steve and shrugged. “Four tomato plants that have survived, five peppers?”
“Some of those tomatoes won’t make it,” he said.
We settled on six pots, three for tomatoes, three for peppers. Melody drew us a map to one of the greenhouses behind the garden center, where she said we could grab the recycled pots we’d just bought.
“How will we know which size are the right size?” I asked.
The booming-voiced man had disappeared to go help a customer out in the greenhouse, and Melody looked up at me with kind eyes. “The sizes are probably stamped on the bottom,” she said. “But just take whatever you need.”