Yearly great debate helps the garden grow

Yearly great debate helps the garden grow By Bob Karolevitz We've had our annual garden argument.

As usual, Phyllis prevailed � by a majority of one.

As I've mentioned before, it starts with the seed catalogues. Phyllis � Miss Practicality herself � goes for the standard, sensible things like radishes, onions, beets and potatoes.

Me? I like to experiment with exotic items like Vegetable Spaghetti, Red Mangels, Jicama and Annie Oakley Okra. I envision a global garden with Japanese Daikon, Jerusalem Artichokes, Bok Choi and Tahitian Squash.

It seems I've got sort of a Luther Burbank streak. For instance, if I crossed an Egg Plant with Hen and Chicks, would I get a vegetable flock?

Phyllis vetoes all my choices, of course. Once again we'll have a plain, old garden with lots of good things to eat but with a woeful lack of creativity.

When it comes to planting, she's not so fussy about rows. Her goal is production. I like an esthetic look.

As an old journeyman printer, I might move a stake three picas to get a straight line. Phyllis isn't that particular. (Sometimes she puts stamps on an envelope crooked, too.)

One year she let me have my way. I used minimum tillage and planted all sorts of things. What I did was attract some very strange bugs, and I weighed my production on a postal scale.

Since then I've been open to compromise. There's room enough for my exotic stuff and her unglamorous veggies. I'd even keep my strange bugs in my own little section.

But that doesn't seem to satisfy mein frau. She thinks my small plot would just be wasted ground, and she believes in the Ben Franklin adage: "Waste not, want not."

Gardening, I think, should be a relaxing, almost spiritual experience, not a means to an end. Digging in the dirt has therapeutic values and shouldn't be governed by how much you grow.

I've been trying to get that point across to Phyllis, but she persists on getting her money's worth out of her seeds. I wish she had that same attitude with her animals which, I'm sorry to say, don't pay their own way.

She responds by insisting that a farm without livestock is a sterile thing, even if it doesn't make economic sense � which it doesn't. But that's one more argument I'll never win.

Yes, we'll have another garden this year, but it will be Jicama-less. We even got our potatoes planted by Good Friday, and the rows are straight, which is Phyllis's lone acquiescence to my eccentricity.

Unless the weeds take over, no doubt we'll have plenty of run-of-the-mill vegetables for our efforts. However, there won't be any Tahitian Squash or Bok Choi to brag about.

Maybe we should just heed the words of my sainted mother who argued that it was a lot cheaper just to buy the finished product at the grocery store.

She was probably right, but it would cheat us out of a yearly confrontation which has become a ritual at our place. I always lose, of course, but a garden is a tradition I'd hate to see disappear � even if Phyllis tells me what to plant and when.

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