Interesting choices

When the tomatoes began to die, I obsessed and fretted and wondered if I could ever survive without my very own tomatoes grown in my yard. Farmer’s market? What farmer’s market? If they weren’t out of the backyard, they weren’t going to be good enough.

But when the zucchini began its wilt, it simply puzzled me. I didn’t go through the five stages of grief. In fact, when the whole plant came off in my hand, I stood there, shocked, and then shrugged and raised my eyebrows.

What did this mean? It meant the only reason I was going to break a sweat while pulling out the rest of the roots was that it was so bloody hot outside. I didn’t tear up, I just dealt.

The reason I felt so calm about it might have been related to one other thing. The zucchini plant, by far, has been the biggest plant in the garden, muscling out everyone else ever since we planted it.

That meant, once I’d cleared it and relegated it to a big green garbage bag, there were swaths of space available for something new.

About a month ago, I started making quiet inquiries about the possibility of Fall planting. “There has to be something I can plant that will grow in the Fall, right?”I’d say, offhandedly, to anyone who I thought might know the answer to that question.

On Sunday afternoon, I headed over to the Earl May Garden Center in Iowa City. I like to share the love, people, so I’m (so far, at least) not loyal to a particular garden store.

I almost didn’t get out of the parking lot. I’d noticed, just in the past couple of weeks, these bushes in peoples’ yards with huge, disc-like blossoms dotting the foliage like cartoon polka dots. I had no idea what they were, but there, in Earl May’s parking lot, was a huge section of them, blooming in small pots. Hardy perennial hibiscus.

Hibiscus? Isn’t that native to, like, Hawaii? Regardless, the siren song of the flower sucked me in, and I stood there long enough to finally realize I’d left my wallet in the car.

Spell broken and logic reminding me that we don’t own our yard and, therefore, couldn’t plant a hibiscus and then take it with us, I returned to the car, retrieved my wallet, and walked into the actual store.

A saleswoman stood at the counter, another behind her, hovering, with nothing to do. Although there were a couple of cars in the parking lot, no one was shopping for garden goodies on Sunday afternoon. The heat index was well more than 100 degrees, and gardening was the last thing on most sane folks’ minds.

I stood in the entryway, my head darting in one direction, then the other. I embodied the full opposite of stealthy.

“Is there something we can help you find?” asked the saleswoman behind the counter. The other woman peeled off, as if there was only enough room for one person’s voice in the immediate space around each customer.

“You know, funny you should ask,” I replied. “I have a zucchini plant that seems to be dying, and I haven’t decided whether to pull it or not, but I think I should, and I think I should plant something in its place, and it’s July 30 and I hear August 1 is the last possible day to plant Fall crops according to the Iowa State Extension Service, and I want to plant something, particularly if the zucchini plant is going to die, but I’m not sure yet, and I have no idea what I can put in that will grow and produce before the frost, so do you have anything like that?”

Then I breathed. The woman looked at me like I might have two–or even three–heads.

“We have something. Right over here.”

She led me to a rack of seeds. The sign on both sides of the rack said Fall Gardens.

“Oh. Whoops,” I said. “I guess I could have found that if I’d just looked. Thanks.”

She nodded and glided away from me, clearly happy to return to her cash register. Once she was gone, I stood still, staring down the rack, filled with interesting choices.

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2 Responses to “Interesting choices”


  1. 1 kalyn August 4, 2006 at 7:50 am

    Are you leaving us in suspense about what you’re going to plant? How about peas, spinach, lettuce? I never plant anything in the fall because I’m overwhelmed taking care of my garden by then (plus school starts and my life is ruined again) but I know people who grow all those in fall.

  2. 2 inadvertentgardener August 4, 2006 at 7:37 pm

    Kalyn, I only left you in suspense for about 13 hours…I hope that’s OK! I’m ready to admit I’m a little addicted to this gardening stuff…I’m not ready to give it up until the weather takes my football and goes home.


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