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Every year the same scene is played out down at the store by the serious gardeners in town. One group of players always wanting to be first at everything - especially gardening - insists on planting their seeds as early in May as possible. They even pay extra for hearty seeds and then they buy things like little frost covers for their seedlings and any other garden gadget they come across that might save the precious life of their early plants. On the other side are traditional gardeners who read almanacs and insist that here in Maine you never know when we might have a killing frost so you shouldn't put any seeds in the ground until after the Memorial Day weekend. This group feels that no matter how unpredictable Mother Nature may be here in northern New England not even she would dare spring a killing frost on us that late in the season. In years we do get a killing frost in June these gardeners insist it's just the exception that proves their rule.
Over the years I've put both gardening theories into practice. Some years I planted early in May and other years I decided to plant late. I must admit that the results were pretty consistent - my garden failed no matter when I planted.
For help I'd watch the gardening shows on television and started listening to a popular garden show on the radio. I got a lot of great ideas and gardening tips, but my garden didn't improve enough to notice.
Sometimes I thought my failure resulted from not spending enough money on all those fancy tools. So, when I'd see a television ad for something like the garden claw or the tilling weasel, I'd go right out and get one. Sometimes I'd buy two just for good measure. While at the store I'd always see a few other garden gizmos I thought my garden might need, and I'd scoop them all up and take them to the checkout counter. I brought hundreds of expensive tools and clever gadgets back home to add to my extensive collection.
One year I read that the way to have a good garden was to have “mounds” running up one side your garden and down the other. So, I went out and bought a few hundred feet of railroad ties and spent the better part of a week laying them down in squares and filling them with loam. I can't say the mounds did much good but building them sure kept me busy and out of mischief for a while.
This year I got the usual seed catalogs in the mail and paged through most of them looking at all the fancy tools that were available for the new growing season. And, when I'd go into the store every morning for my coffee, I'd listen once again to the arguments for and against early and late May planting. I listened but I didn't participate.
Last winter I sat down and figured out how much I spent on last year's garden and according to those figures last year's tomatoes cost me about $46 a piece.
This year I've decided to take the money I'd normally spend on my garden and book me and the wife on a luxury cruise instead.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
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