A few months ago, I took up gardening. As any gardener will tell you, it’s a pursuit rife with equal parts triumph and tribulation. My dad warned me in the beginning to brace for heartache, and I did, but nothing prepares you for the rollercoaster of emotion that begins the moment you gently tuck a seedling into a bed, lovingly covering it with a dirt blanket. That is the moment the young plant parent realizes her heart now lives outside her body.    

At the start, the veggies and herbs took off like gangbusters. April showers caused huge growth spurts. The tomato and pepper plants quickly needed (baby) cages and stakes. The cantaloupe plant began to overtake the entire raised bed, threatening to escape and run wild in the yard. I ended up turning hog wire into a teepee-style lattice for it to grow up and over. So far, so good.

Then in July, the rains came back.

It’s difficult to describe the sadness of watching your sweet little red begonias melt into nothingness because of excessive rain. It’s not nearly as bad however as watching your jalapeño plant burst forth with a dozen or so baby peppers, only to wilt from heat exhaustion (or too much water? Or not enough water?) and die. We did get enough (extremely small, but tasty) peppers to make Chef Donald Link’s gazpacho and seafood salad recipe for dinner one night recently, so alas Mama Jalapeño’s death was not in vain.

Within a few days of the final death knell of the begonias, I discovered a wee baby cantaloupe. I texted my dad a photo of his new grand-taloupe and he said it looked lonely, which I took to mean he was asking if it might have any siblings. By the next day, it did.

So, it seems, as we continue to grieve the loss of our beloved jalapeño plant and begonia blooms, while battling the hornworm scourge that nearly offed the tomatoes, we also simultaneously celebrate the joyful addition of baby cantaloupe to our brood. In the immortal words of Dr. Ian Malcolm in the 1993 film “Jurassic Park,” “Life finds a way.”

Plant parenting is not for the faint of heart. But the joy. The joy, when it magically appears, is overwhelming.

In addition to the droves of dragonflies, lizards and insects too numerous to count, bands of blue jays, murders of crows, a season of tanagers and echo of mockingbirds (though I sometimes think they are a ridicule, because I sense their judgement of my gardening prowess, or lack thereof), we are enjoying forms of wildlife new to our yard, presumably drawn by the blooms on the vegetable plants and the recently planted Texas sage — butterflies and bees.

Yes, nothing prepares you for the rollercoaster of emotion that begins the moment you tuck a seedling into a bed, lovingly covering it with a dirt blanket. But so far, the joy outweighs the pain.

 

Do you garden? Email Melanie at melanie@myneworleans.com to badmouth hornworms or share any other gardening trials and tribulations.