I Can’t Kill Plants

I had a magnificent vegetable and herb garden in our first home. The salads, pesto and mint tea I MADE FROM IT were fantastic. My plants grew big and fast, and I was hooked.

When I was pregnant with our second baby, I decided that, despite my swollen belly, I would plant a new garden with my son.

Swollen belly was NOT an understatement. Also, why do we have the same haircut?

The new garden would be our last project as just a mama and a son.

Except we decided to buy SEEDS.

In my first few gardens, I’d used seedlings. But I wanted to make the shift so E could appreciate the progression of seed to seedling to plant to fruit to our table.

And so I could prove that I was a TRUE GARDENER to all those people who cared but didn’t actually exist outside MY MIND.

With joy, E spread the seeds and waited. And waited. And waited.

It was SO boring.

But, finally, seedlings appeared. A LOT OF SEEDLINGS. Hundreds of plants growing towards the sunlight. (We may have dropped a bag or two of seeds in with the toddler planting method.)

E and I were so excited. I waddled a jig, and we high-fived.

Until it dawned on me: I must kill all but the strongest seedlings if any were to survive.

(My thoughts are often a cross between Nietzsche and Star Trek.)

I walked over with my hand of god and pulled two little tomato seedlings out. As I reached for the third one, only an inch out of the ground and hidden behind two large seedlings, I think: HE MIGHT MAKE IT.

I did not pull.

This happened again and again.

E and I continued to tend to the garden. The garden of survivors also known as EVERYONE who wasn’t rotting. (I guess zombie plants don’t pull on my heartstrings.)

Don’t get me wrong. Each day, I would walk outside with high resolve knowing that I MUST THIN THIS GARDEN.  And then the guilt would set in.  And I would instead whisper encouraging phrases like looking tall or this leaf is HUGE – way to go.

I told myself: I gardened on instincts before and it was delicious. What’s the worst that could happen?

Starvation is the worst that could happen.  Because 50 green bean seedlings cannot survive a 3×5 garden patch especially when coupled with 45 tomato seedlings and 32 cucumbers vines.

In fact, only one green bean can survive.

(Although that one was delicious.)

This year, we are building another garden with the kids, and we are plantings neatly spaced seedlings so we can kill our plants the old-fashion way —  by not watering them all summer.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

20 thoughts to “I Can’t Kill Plants”

  1. We don’t have a yard, so our garden is all in planters. I haven’t gotten brave enough to start from seed yet….I find that, when I kill the first basil plant, it’s easier to just go buy another one without having to wait for it to sprout from seed.

    Can’t wait to see pics of what you have this year!

  2. I can’t have a garden. I forget to water. I have house plants. They droop and call for water and I water them because I can’t hear the TV over their little sad voices. 🙂

  3. In our family we have so many people with the Black Finger of Death instead of a Green Thumb that plants we bring into our home (usually from Wal Mart or Home Depot) are referred to as “Victims”.

  4. First…you can’t see me but I’m TOTALLY dancing a jig that you’re planting a garden again. Of course, I’m also in my office cubicle and the person across the way is looking at me oddly. Puh-lease. As if she’s not used to jig dancing from me.

    Second…I too have a hard time in condemning seedlings to Death. In fact, it’s so bad, I make my mom come visit so she can choose for me. Because that’s what moms do, right? This is also the same reason that I can’t pick out a goldfish for the kids knowing I’m sentencing it to almost certain death.

  5. I planted spinach and turnips from seed in my fall garden and I hated killing my little plants too. My sister and husband think I’m crazy. I would even pull them out and then replant somewhere else but they wouldn’t make it. Spinach will struggle and some will grow when crowded. But turnips? No way.

  6. If only you had posted this a little bit earlier. I am currently having this experience myself. I decided to garden for the first time and start with seeds. Soooo, now I have something like 70 red pepper plants and 20 sugar baby watermelon plants. The good news is I started them indoors instead of in the ground. I am desperately trying to give away me seedlings. So my question is how many would you like?

  7. I wish I could send you a picture of my lettuce patch (and by “patch” I mean the half a row that actually germinated). Because I? have the SAME EXACT PROBLEM. I’m currently ignoring the bazillion teeny lettuces until they’re “big enough for baby greens!” as my compromise to myself.

  8. Oh Lord. I’m not going to be able to shut up. I’m so giddy with excitment for you and your garden.

    Okay…so…this year, I’ve used the Square Foot Gardening book as my bible. Mel (we’re totally on first name basis in my mind) said that when you plant things like carrots and lettuce, to draw a grid in the dirt and plant the seeds (two per square) in the each box. That way you don’t waste seeds and it eliminates the need to thin as much.

    Also…a little birdie told me seed tape is a great project that you can do with your kids and also eliminates the need to thin.

    And one more thing…we have radishes and carrots growing in the middle of our lawn. Because we (and by we I mean my kids) like to pretend seed packets are fairy dust to sprinkle hither and yon.

    Okay. I’ll stop commenting now.

  9. You know I’m a compulsive gardener, but it finally has gotten easier to let those thinned-out seedlings make their way to the compost pile in the sky. They return to the dust from which they came… and those healthy plants that remain are the great reward for bravery and a stiff upper lip.

  10. I’m laughing at the haircut comment. We just planted our tomatoes today and stuck them indoors. I’m overwhelmed by all the planting that needs to be done because there are so many other things that need to be done.

  11. OK, first, love the pregnant photo.

    Second, I hate gardens. And by that I mean I love them and for years entertained the idea that I could grow veggies and eat them. Turns out that I can grow the plants, but more often than not the veggies are not edible. Mostly because I suck at watering, fertilizing and remembering that I planted them in the first place.

  12. I have always wanted a garden!! But, I kill gardens just by walking too closely to them….so I will make sure not to come by your house this summer (not that I usually spend my time at your house, I’m not a crazy stalker! ha)

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