Veggie sticker shock

Written by Bob on March 18th, 2011

My garden’s tilled and my seeds bought. And once again after 53 years I’m a gardner.

YUCAIPA, CA – My wife does the grocery shopping, but occasionally I make a trip to the supermarket for a few things. Yesterday was one such trip. What a shock when I ventured into the produce section.

Tomatoes, $2.99 a pound, broccoli, $1.99 a pound, green leaf lettuce, $1.99 a bunch, cucumbers $1.49 each – EACH!, carrots, 99-cents a pound (what a bargain!), and dandelion greens $1.99 a pound.

(Every summer I poison these troublesome yellow sprouting weeds when they take over my lawn. And now they sell for $1.99 a pound?)

With those prices, I settled on the carrots. I also realized it was time for me to plant a garden. And gardening is not my favorite springtime activity.

I remember as a little kid my mother planting her garden when spring sprung and the sun thawed the rich, black soil on our farm in Minnesota. I was about nine at the time and old enough to help. How I hated that garden.

“Bobby, it’s time to work in the garden,” my mom would say. “I need your help picking weeds.”

For a little boy, who would rather play in the woods and swim in the creek that ran between our house and barn, mom’s garden meant but one thing: hard, sweaty, work.

Mom planted all the vegetables that the grocery store wanted to overcharge me (expect the dandelions, we had plenty of those).

I can still picture mom’s garden. It seems like it covered at least an acre. I ‘m sure it wasn’t nearly that big, but those rows upon rows of veggies were long and many. Every day we worked fighting the weeds, keeping them at bay.

I was mom’s weed puller. She didn’t trust me with the hoe. She figured I’d dig up as much produce as weeds, so the hoe was off limits. I liked eating the bountiful harvest, but didn’t much care for the sweat it took to get all those delicious veggies to the table.

Once I left home, I never gardened again. Except for one small chore. I dig up my wife’s little patch of earth in our back yard – about 3 by 10-feet. But that’s it. I dig and she does the rest. Planting, weeding, harvesting.

It’s been 53 years since I last worked in a real garden like mom’s. But after my “veggie sticker shock” at State Brothers, I have once again become a gardener. (Mom would be so proud!).

I’ve dug up a plot about 5 by 10-feet…OK, so it’s not a garden by real gardener standards, but I figure it’s going to keep me busy. And save me money at the grocery store.

Then I went to our local nursery and bought my seeds – carrots, tomato, lettuce, cucumber, sweet peas, onions, lettuce, radish, string beans, and even sweet corn.

I asked the older lady behind the counter how deep and when I should plant my seeds. She glanced up at me over the top of her glasses with a look that said she knew she was dealing with a rookie gardener.

“The instructions are on the back of the packets,” she said politely. “But these (peas, lettuce and carrots) you want to wait a couple more weeks until we’re sure the cold weather is gone.”

I was so proud of my gardening plans that I just had to tell my neighbor Dan. His look didn’t give me a lot of confidence. Understandable, since he’s rarely seen me mowing the lawn (my grandson’s job), or seen me digging in the dirt (my wife’s chosen chore).

Now if my newfound passion dissipates and nothing grows, I figure I’ll just pick and eat dandelions. After all, at $1.99 a pound how can we call them weeds?

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