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Gardens: A foolish optimist’s pastime

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You can’t plant a garden and be a pessimist.

The act of putting seeds and starts into the soil is, to me, the very essence of optimism. You’re trusting that good things will happen — the radishes will sprout, the marigolds will bloom, the tomatoes will hang heavy on the vine, just like in the

seed catalogs.


Of course, optimism can become foolish optimism. I know. Where gardening is concerned, I count myself among the fools.

Every year I do really dumb stuff, like plant zucchini. I have no idea why.

I can’t stand zucchini, really. Oh, I’ll eat it if I’m absolutely forced to, but I’d rather just skip it altogether if possible.

One problem trouble with zucchini is speed. You plant it, it grows (the stuff you don’t like is always guaranteed to grow), and before long you see a blossom coming from the end of a tiny green pinky-finger-size zucchini, and you think to yourself, “That’s going to be the right size very soon.”

And so you check 24 hours later and find the zucchini is now a zeppelin, a size good only for carving into a canoe. There’s a short window of time when zucchini is the proper size.

It’s about 15 minutes. In the middle of the night.

But still I plant zucchini. Why? Because each spring I think that maybe this year, I will find that I like it.

And that, my friends, is foolish optimism.

Another kind of foolish optimism I demonstrate is with tomatoes. Each year I plant scads of tomatoes — red, yellow, green, big, small, miniature. It is Screamin’ Tomato Mania in my back yard.

I do this thinking that I love tomatoes, which is true, and that I am going to eat them all, which is not.

They start ripening in July; and by September, I am so sick of tomatoes that I could just ralph, as we used to say back home. No offense to you Ralphs out there.

And then there’s the kind of foolish optimism that says you can plant a decent garden in the city. Start with the fact that the soil is lousy — the composition of my backyard soil is a mix of rocks, broken glass, sticks and pop tops, held together by the merest sprinkling of humus — and then add to it the fact that it gets about half the necessary sunlight for successful growing, and you can see that only an optimist — a foolish one — would try to raise a garden there.

Last year, just for the heck of it, I planted two rows of sweet corn. This was REALLY foolish. As I was planting and planning, I was being watched by all the neighborhood squirrels, who were making plans of their own. And their plan won. I did not harvest a single ear of corn. The squirrels, on the other hand, feasted.

This is what happens when you are a foolish optimist with a bagful of seed packets. But you know what? I couldn’t change if I wanted to.

And if I’m foolish, well, that applies to me in a lot more areas than just gardening.

Mike Redmond is an author, journalist, humorist and speaker. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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