In the world of horticulture, there seems to be two kinds of gardeners: gardening nuts and gardening sluts. Guess which I am.
Late last spring, daughter Susy planted in my back yard six tomato plants that she had lovingly raised from seeds. She settled them into their new home with tenderness, mounted tomato cages so they would have plenty of support, and then left them in my care.
Since then, their cages fell over and lots of weeds came up but they’ve produced dozens of tomatoes. Because of our long chilly wet summer, though, not very many would ripen. All of a sudden today, I looked out and hollered. There were RED ones out there.
Susy and I each grabbed a bowl and went out to reap the harvest, But as far as two-thirds of the tomatoes were concerned, they were already being harvested. Slugs of every size and shape were all over the tomatoes. Even baby slugs were porking out big time. It was slug heaven (or hell, depending on your point of view.)
If you’re not from Seattle and have never seen a slug, it is not a pretty sight. A slug is a snail without a shell. A slug is a fat creature who slowly slides along on its belly leaving a trail of slime. A slug is very hard to love. A slug can turn a nice tomato patch into a juicy, slimy shambles. Here’s a glamor shot of one of the gluttonous little creatures.
Now here’s the weird thing. Slugs didn’t show up in Susy’s garden in Bellevue. They all came to my yard instead. This may be because Susy is a true gardener and the slugs respect and fear her. I, on the other hand, am a “starter” gardener for whom the slugs have scorn and contempt. I do well at the initial stage of the growing season, but after that the garden and I strike a laissez faire relationship.
It’s been that way since my childhood. During World War II, my sister Joan and I had victory gardens across the street from Fillmore School in Cedar Rapids. My start-up garden was perfection: perfect little seeded rows of carrots, green beans, peas. Artfully surrounding this delightful little patch, I planted a row of nastursiums. It would surely win awards. Without a doubt it would be the best of all the victory gardens. All the kids would be jealous when they compared their puny patch with my plentiful one. I would be able to feed the hungry, maybe send some of my extra produce to the troops.
As soon as I finished putting the seeds in, I went home to play with my friends and never again returned to the victory garden. It still seems to me that after I did all that initial work, the least those seeds can do is weed and water themselves.
So how was I to know the tomato plants had been attacked? I just wanted to eat their product, I didn’t want to go out and visit with them every day. I certainly wasn’t interested in developing a meaning relationship with them.
To tell the truth, I really hate being outdoors. All the things I don’t like are out there: rain, dirt, weeds, hard work, bugs, slugs, creatures that flit from flower to flower and then sting you when you’re not looking, and others that slither along the ground.
But most of all what I don’t like about the outdoors is its lack of central heating. In Seattle, it’s too cold out there, especially for a person like me who shivers indoors all year long. Before I actually got them, I was the only woman I knew who was looking forward to hot flashes.
All this may explain why gardening is not one of my shining achievements. It is Susy’s though. As it is my sister’s. And daughters Teresa and Judy, granddaughter Elizabeth, nephew Tim, and on and on. At least I know I won’t starve.
I continue to be exceedingly proud of my daughter Susy. What a perfect lady she was as she graciously pushed the wheelbarrow full of pounds of tomato sludge to the yard waste container. Restraint and good manners are a sign of good breeding.