Tonawanda News

May 21, 2012

Clueless and late to the garden party

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The more I get into this whole gardening thing, the more I realize how much I don’t know.

It started not long after I finished my first “Clueless Gardener” column, when I walked into a store with the idea of making some gardening purchases. Seeds, I thought. Maybe some plants to transplant. But mainly, seeds. That’s kind of the point of a garden, right?

Surveying the array of seed packets before me in all their multicolored possibility, I chose a package of tomato seeds, read the back ... and discovered that I should have sown them indoors and let them grow to seedlings ... two months ago.


I had no idea. To me, garden equals spring. As in, I didn’t need to worry about it at all until after the frost risk was done. (And we all know how late that can be in Western New York.) I was familiar with the dangers of frost, so I figured I was golden right into May.

Instead, I was already painfully behind.

I looked at more and more seed packets, quickly realizing how many things just wouldn’t work already. I should have started them months ago. While I know it’s not entirely true, it seemed like the only thing I encountered that could possibly be directly sown at this point was basil ... and I’d already ordered a basil plant from my son’s preschool, marking it for transplantation to the garden.

Confounded, I abandoned the seed packets, bought a pair of garden gloves, some gardening tools (including a small trowel for my sons to use) and a pair of small stakes labeled “Grow Already!” and “Dirt Won’t Hurt!” — and retreated to figure out what to do next.

If ignorance was bliss, I was in heaven.

But I hate feeling ignorant. Hate it. And I was mortified by it. For a few minutes, standing there, I just wanted to give up. This is what grocery stores are for, right?

But this is where you, dear reader, come in. I’d written a column saying that I was going to give this a try. To me, that’s a promise. And I’d also promised my boys that we would do this ... and they never forget anything (except, of course, things I’d prefer they forget ... but that’s another column).

I walked out of that store and started doing the research I should have done months ago. 

I discovered that you can buy seedlings other people have started for you. Who knew? (Not me.) I have a few letters and emails from helpful readers. I discovered the Mother Earth News website (which has a wonderful “How When to Plant What” feature). Debbie Rife of the Garden at Knox offered some advice.

I told myself again, I can do this. It may not be exactly what I’d originally had in my mind’s eye ... but I can do this.

Now I have a date with the North Tonawanda Farmers Market for some tomato plants, and a basil plant with my name on it. I think it might be joined by some mint, because I absolutely love iced mint tea and it would give me a kick to use mint I’d grown myself. (Although maybe not ... now I’m reading that it tends to take over gardens.) I haven’t gotten over my desire for those seed packets, but now I have a better idea what can still be sown and what can’t. (I’m thinking maybe pumpkins. Homegrown pie filling would be awesome.)

The next installment of this column will hopefully relate the process of actually getting them all in the earth. (I keep reminding myself, “Dirt Won’t Hurt!”)

It’s definitely a learning experience. But then, I guess that’s the point.


Thanks so much to everyone who sent emails or letters (or called) with well-wishes for my family’s little gardening adventure. I appreciate it a great deal, and I’ve already learned a lot from your words of advice.

You give me hope that maybe this clueless gardener just might be able to make things work. And just maybe, if I can make it work, I can encourage others that they can do the same.