Steve's Blog: Reporter's "green thumb" in serious jeopardy

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - To me, it's one of the amazing, unanswered wonders of the gardening world. Why is it that grass won't grow in my yard (where I desperately want it to) and yet it grows freely and vigorously in the cracks of my driveway and sidewalk?

Like many of you, I enjoy growing plants. Or perhaps, trying to grow plants would be the more appropriate description.

I'd like to think I have something of a green thumb.

I've had mild success with flower gardening, but I'm on the verge of giving up any vegetable gardening.

It's probably because I've not put enough time and effort (and money) into it.  But I'm not so sure.

Remember, I'm a Midwest native raised in the farm country of Central Illinois. My dad had a big garden. My grandpa had a big garden. My uncles all had big gardens. Heck, come to think of it, most everyone where I grew up had a big garden.

We'd till the soil, plants the seeds, battle the weeds and bugs, and then harvest the bounty.

Summertime at my house meant fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, strawberries, peppers, sweet corn and other assorted fruits and vegetables.

We'd eat all we could, freeze the extras and give away bushels to friends and family. It seemed that anything would grow in that fertile, Midwest soil.

Fast forward a few years to married life and settling down more than thousand miles away in Jacksonville, Florida. The climate there is very similar to that of South Mississippi.

I tried to plant and grow a small, modest vegetable garden in Jacksonville. Let's just say it was less than a success.

What the insects didn't eat, the birds and squirrels devoured. And forget about a bountiful harvest. I'm talking about them eating the plants. I think I wound up with a few mealy tomatoes and perhaps a couple peppers.

Insects, oppressive Southern heat and less than desirable soil sounded the death knell for my gardening attempt.

Flash forward a few more years to life in Ocean Springs.

This year I tried a few tomato plants, some peppers, a cantaloupe vine and a watermelon vine. Again, it's been less than success. This time, I planted the vegetables in containers on the porch.

The culprit this time was the dreaded cutworm. If you don't know what these things are, and you garden, you don't want to know.

Suffice it to say that three of the worms devoured every leaf on my three pepper plants in one day flat.

I killed them and the next day, you guessed it.  A few of their friends stripped my tomato plants of their leaves. They too (the worms) paid the price and were reduced to fertilizer for my yard under the heel of my boot.

Along with the bugs, lack of rain was a big problem this year. And I didn't do a good job of watering when I should have.

The good news is, my melons are still alive.  I planted them in my flower bed. The watermelon has a couple of small melons on the vine. The cantaloupe is showing promise, spreading out with several blossoms.

I think this may be the last year for my attempt at vegetable gardening. Bring on the flowers. I've had more success there anyway.

Whatever the plants, I still love getting my hands in the dirt.  I think it was an inherited thing, coming from a line of farmers on my dad's side.

Good luck in your gardening endeavors. Keep the Miracle Grow handy for the plants, and the Round Up close by for that stubborn grass in the driveway cracks.

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