The Roses of Success

I started a garden this weekend.

That’s actually a lie.

I tore down a couple of my Murder Sheds this weekend and was left with two rectangular patches of dirt. I spent the next eight hours playing in that dirt, raking up old nails, pulling weeds and respectfully disposing of any mummified cats I found. I surrounded them with a wobbly wall of cobwebby bricks that were piled around my property and proclaimed, “These are my gardens.”

Then I saw a few more weeds and noticed that the ground wasn’t level, so I started digging around in the dirt again. I’ve been doing that for three days now. At this point I’ve dug and re-dug the same empty dirt plot so many times that if my neighbor suspected me of hiding a body and called the police, I wouldn’t even be angry. I’d shake her hand for being so vigilant about reporting suspicious behavior.

This is exactly the kind of place a person would bury something unpleasant.

This is exactly the kind of place a person would bury something unpleasant.


I would also fervently hope that she isn’t a gardener, because if she is, she’d know that even with all my digging, I can’t bury the truth: I’m making this up as I go. I have no idea how to garden. My experience has already been fraught with trouble and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

Problems That Have Already Occurred

1. Total body soreness, brought on by lifting cinderblocks, bricks and large piles of dirt. Also possibly by tetanus. There are a lot of rusty nails out there.

2. Freckling. I shouldn’t be surprised. Last month, I managed to get a sunburn while I was indoors.

3. Comparisons to my late grandmother, who liked gardening, cats and books and did not like other people or leaving the house. Frankly I don’t see the resemblance.

4. Putting a hole in my neighbor’s nice fence. Flinging a piece of sheet metal at my dad and ensuring it put a big crack in my new neighbor’s fence was the Murder Shed’s last revenge.

5. I briefly owned a mummy cat. Did you think that was a joke? As my dad and brother pulled up the floorboards of the Murder Shed, my dad said, “Look out for the bodies under there, son!”
“Hahaha,” we all laughed, because we were young and naive then. “Hahaha! The bodies!” And that’s when Dad found the cat.
That was the day we all learned that when you’re a cat who dies under the floor of a desert shed, you don’t get sticky and melty. You dry out like a sponge abandoned in the Atacama Desert and you creep the hell out of the people who find you.

This is a poster for an excellent Brendan Fraser movie, not a picture of Mummy Cat. The two mummies look pretty similar, though.

This is a poster for an excellent Brendan Fraser movie, not a picture of Mummy Cat. The two mummies look pretty similar, though.

Problems I Anticipate in the Not-So Distant Future

1. Crazy expensive Home Depot wish lists. When you think about it, buying one of every kind of seed is a steal. I bought 50+ bell peppers for $1.75. All I have to do is add water and baby them and protect them from birds, mammals, bugs and disease. Every day. For the next three months. Bargain!

2. Birds, mammals, bugs and disease. I’m ill-equipped. Is there a plant version of Web MD?

3. A surplus of vegetables. I thought it was a good idea to plant three rows of jalepeños in my seedling kit. Some of them will inevitably die when I move them outside, victims of my ignorance, but a mess of peppers will remain. I guess that will be my shtick. I’ll be the Lady Who Puts Jalepeños On Everything. Or the Lady Who Gives All Her Friends Congratulatory Beans And Onions.

4. The remaining shed’s floor is rotting. It’s only a matter of time before I’m knee-deep in Mummy Cat II.

5. Scorpions. Halfway through overturning a rock, I remembered that scorpions exist. I’ve never met a scorpion. Maybe they’re really nice and just look like tiny armored killing machines. I never want to find out.

The problems keep piling up, but for every one of them I find at least three things to really love about gardening.

Cool Things I Can Do Now That I Have Two Dirt Patches

1. Play in the dirt! It gets on my face and in my socks and coats my teeth. I love it.

2. Demolish stuff! It turns out a large part of garden-building involves tearing things apart to make different things.

3. Learn about food! The other day I asked three different people how potatoes are grown. No one knew. Potatoes are my favorite food. In 24 years, it never occurred to me to find out their origin story.

4. Dedicate a patch to the memory of Mummy Cat! You turned to leather in the dry desert weather. / Mummy Cat, Mummy Cat! I hope there’s water where you’re at. Jordan’s making me a plaque. My dad keeps calling me Wednesday Addams.

Once again, I fail to see the resemblance.

Once again, I fail to see the resemblance.

5. Poke worms!

6. Talk to other gardeners, who, it turns out, might be my kind of people!

7. Scare Jordan with stories about spider webs!

I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m excited for the part where I find out. I’m not even sure I’ll be any good at gardening, but these first days have been the best and all I’m doing is moving dirt from places with too much of it to places that don’t have enough. And poking worms. I’ve done a lot of worm poking.

The first lettuce seed I planted in my seedling kit sprouted today. I keep going to check on it. I lean in close to the plastic dome that covers the tray of dirt and I stare at that little green shoot.

“I made you happen,” I whisper to it. “You were a seed in an envelope and I gave you soil and water. Some mysterious, unknowable power deep inside you made you grow up out of the darkness and towards the light, but I set it off. I made you happen, lettuce.”

I lean in even closer.

“And some day real soon… I’m gonna eat you.”


  1. pensitivity101

    Talking to seedlings eh? Been there (Classic UK TV in The Good Life with the runner bean experiment. Douglas (Felicity Kendall’s bean) was given loving encouragement to grow, her husband Tom (the late Richard Briers) shouted abuse at his.)
    We are still eating the (frozen) fruit of our efforts from last year’s crop of beans, apples and rhubarb (all tomatoes and potatoes now gone). It’ll be worth it!

  2. Nadia

    Way to go. My SIL grows her own veggies, and I’m living vicariously. Which means I get 50% of everything without doing a thing.
    I would have but I’d have to anticipate the problem of everything dying.

  3. justaddtea

    Talking to plants has been known to make them grow better, especially if you use soothing tones.

    Also, fyi, I’m looking at this on my phone, and the picture of Mummy Cat is the pic to click to read the rest of the post from the “Blogs I follow” screen. Since you didn’t post it in the actual post, I thought you might like to know. Or maybe that was on purpose…

  4. kaycreate

    When I did a container garden last year and totally asked the ‘Where do potatoes come from?” question. Glad I’m not the only one! Hilarious post as always, good luck with gardening!!

  5. TheFakeGourmet

    If I remember correctly (and I can’t guarantee that), to grow potatoes you can just bury chunks of raw potato and they will sprout. My parents used to have a huge vegetable garden that I mostly avoided, thus the memory issue. Good luck with the growing stuff!

    • Kate

      Yeah garden! So exciting. And yes, you can grow potatoes directly from planting potatoes that have sprouted.
      try this:
      I’ve done it in old wooden fruit crates stacked up rather that tires (don’t like the idea of all that exhaust and junk getting into the dirt. Even cleaned up it weirds me out). It saves a lot of space plus you get a higher yield.
      Happy planting :)

  6. brokenbelladonna

    Potatoes grow from the eyes in the potato – I used to cut up seed potatoes for a living. Jobs in Australia FTW

    Growing your own veggies is made of awesome. You’ll murder a lot of seedlings in the process of learning and learn to hate the wildlife too ;) Growing extra so you can have some and they can have some doesn’t work, the bastards just take a bite out of everything instead :(

  7. Jessica Norris

    What a perfectly delicious post. :) Welcome to the wonderful world of gardening! If you ever feel like swimming in huge piles of excess produce, I suggest you trying growing zucchini. They have “zucchini day” in some places where you deal with your towering excess by putting packages of zucchini on random doorsteps in your neighbourhood. And Grandad always used to say “You’ve got to lock your car in summer, otherwise someone will fill it full of zucchini!”

    Happy growing!

  8. maurnas

    Two things:
    #1 (and most important) Please tell me you kept the mummy cat! If you don’t want it I would be happy to take it off your hands. I live in Florida, nothing mummifies here. Though it is a good state for serial killing what with the fast decomposition of bodies. I mean, so I hear.
    #2 There is an excellent website called Dave’s Garden. They have planting info, bugs and disease info, seed swaps. It’s an amazing place.

  9. musingsoftheamusingmuse

    I am glad I’m not the only one who talks to plants. Or finds mummified cats (and mice, rats, snakes, etc…). I also remind everything I raise, from garden vegetables and some flowers to livestock that one day – they’re getting in my belly.

  10. motherhendiaries

    Just when I think you can’t get any funnier, you DO! This is too much – thanks so much! And especially thank you for reminding me *sigh* that I have overgrown dead weeds in my front 2 garden beds that seriously need sorting. The fresh shoots of spring are gasping their pitiful last breaths because I am such a rubbish gardener. Donning wellies as we speak… garden gloves, check. Motivation zero…

  11. swamiyesudas

    Hello, Stephanie! Liked this one. As for growing potatoes, or ANY other kind of thing, here is how We do it: Dig hole, place seed, cover it up, water it, AND PLUCK IT OUT THE NEXT DAY TO SEE IF IT HAS GROWN. Keep doing this till We see results. …OLD joke. Haha. …If You are Really into Gardening, More Power to You! Love and Regards.

  12. weavergrace

    I haven’t been blog hopping in a while, and I’m glad to be getting out and about. This was really funny! Especially the part about your neighbor calling the police. I forget what suburban living is like.

    I have been gardening most of my life, and have even had “victory garden”-like results, but I still know very little about gardening. It’s a lot to learn, just like any form of life.

    You got a seed to sprout! Well done, you! You must appreciate what an accomplishment that is!

    Great suggestions in the comments above. A couple more:
    Have you heard that you should put a plant in a million-dollar hole? Sounds like you’re doing that, with all the care you’re giving the soil: leveling it, aerating it, removing hazards. I recommend that you consider rejuvenating it with some life before you expect it to grow life: compost and mulch (not landscaping mulch, but something like weed-free straw) come to mind. Beware that Home Depot can burn a hole in your wallet so that your hole turns into a 2 million-dollar hole: the gadgets, soil amendments, tools, toys, gimmicks…

    By the way, cats (and dogs) do a lot to repel animal pests.

    Best wishes!

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  18. Lilith

    oh this is adorable! ‘the Botany of Desire’ by Michael Pollan (true! he was born to write about plants!) is a great book with potato-ish history. you are on your way to being Crazy gardening cat lady! congratulations!

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