Green Thumbs

Happy May! While the April showers seem to be running a little late in the game, it’s officially time to get those May flowers a-bloomin’!

Now, I might have gone a little overboard when I went out and bought an array of seeds and young plants on May Day. There’s a solid chance that I drove my roommate crazy as I happily transferred all of my little plants into pots, getting dirt everywhere and humming “inch by inch, row by row” on repeat because I only remember the first verse of the song.

I can’t say for sure why it is that I have a thing for anything leafy and green, but I’m going to bet that my grandparents’ garden in good old New York has something to do with it.

Now, I have a sneaky suspicion that there is, in fact, something in the water that makes gardens thrive in my old backyard in Dansville. And considering the success of my aunt’s beautiful garden in Naples, I’m guessing that the entire Finger Lakes Region has a special way with Mother Nature – but you can tell that just from taking a look around.

Ever since I can remember, my grandpa has toiled over his annual vegetable garden, and my grandma’s cosmos around the yard are always taller than the chickens that pluck bugs from the petals. I’ll admit that I never had much passion for the whole “garden prep” idea.

But as soon as I started to see little green tomatoes or zucchini flowers speckling among leaves, they definitely became a whole lot more interesting. I learned very quickly where to look among the stems and to watch for the colors to start to change. I discovered that anything plucked right off the vine tastes way better than store-bought – even if you refuse to admit that you like vegetables to your mother.

I also learned how to very strategically pick juuuuust enough cherry tomatoes at a time that my grandpa might not notice they were missing the next time he went out to check their faring. The trick is to pluck evenly among the plants and to leave the obvious morsels alone – unless they could be reasonably blamed on an ambitious chicken.

Now, I wasn’t a total freeloader – my mother and I did try our hand at a strawberry plot once. The results weren’t entirely satisfying: it’s interesting how you can plant strawberries and suddenly be feeding a healthy variety of rabbits and birds. And once the sweet little buds were missing, I cannot say that my cat’s obvious appreciation of a new rolling ground was worth the effort that it took to clear it.

However, now that I’m older and suddenly finding myself in dorm rooms and apartments, the lack of greenery has definitely been of notice. I’m notorious for going to the grocery store for mac and cheese and coming back with a potted gem. And lately, I’ve been realizing that there are far too many shelves of perfectly lovable kitchen herbs that need adopting – well, tis the season!

My roommate is slowly starting to appreciate the blooms and lovely smells around the house. And when my boyfriend laughs and rolls his eyes because I’m way too excited that my lavender seeds are sprouting, I’ll simply tell him that he won’t get to taste any of my vanilla lavender tea cakes this coming fall.


Halie Solea 2013Story and photo by Halie Solea