The Inadvertent Gardener Rotating Header Image

Planting season begins

On Easter Sunday, I stopped at the grocery store on the way back from church. Sometime that week, a series of what looked like temporary quonset huts had sprung up in the parking lot of the Hy-Vee, our local supermarket. In front of them, arranged like sandbags, were pallets of peat and potting soil and pea gravel. If it hadn't been for the sadly dropping windsocks and arrangement of gazing balls, it could have been a mock-up of a military installation. Instead, this indicated that the assault on the land was nigh. Planting season was upon us.

I moved to Iowa City in September 2005, after a year-long job search while my boyfriend, Steve, began working on his MFA in nonfiction at the University of Iowa. All year, while I futilely tried to convince the good people of Iowa that yes, really, I seriously and honestly and no-I'm-not-kidding wanted to move to their state, I made mental lists of the things I would do when I moved to Iowa. The list included writing my first novel, going to as many readings at Prairie Lights as I could schedule, starting a band, participating in a presidential caucus, and growing some tomatoes.

"You're going to turn into a farm girl," said my friend's husband. "You're going to get out there and start digging in the dirt."

I begged to differ. Putting a tomato plant in a pot and hoping for the best was one thing. Digging up our landlord's grass terrified me.

But I wanted that tomato plant, so on April 16, 2006, I pulled up the hood of my windbreaker and dodged raindrops across the parking lot toward the quonset hut gardening fiesta. Not confident enough to start with seeds (and recognizing that I was probably too late for seeds at that point), I selected five seedlings: one sage, one spearmint, and three cherry tomatoes. I asked about basil and parsley, and the poor guy assigned to stand out there in the rain said he hadn't seen either of those yet. "It's kind of early, don't you think?" he said.

I shrugged. I had no idea. Don't they have greenhouses in Iowa? They have plenty of basil and parsley for sale for $1.99 per package over in the Hy-Vee—that means someone's growing it somewhere.

Nonetheless, I vowed to come back. Five plants seemed like a good number to start with. I bought a big plastic pot for the tomatoes, a smaller plastic pot for the herbs, and, as a last minute impulse buy, two Gerbera daisy plants and two ceramic pots to stick them in. They'd make a nice addition to the front porch. I hoisted two bags of potting soil into my cart, spent a long two or three minutes in front of the pea gravel deciding if I thought it was worth buying 50 pounds of rocks just to put a couple of handfuls down in the bottom of my pots, and decided drainage was really not as necessary as the back of the potting soil bag seemed to indicate.

I paid up, and hauled my purchases to the car. The weather might be dreary, but I was participating in this planting thing. In the middle of an agricultural paradise, how could this experiment possibly go wrong?

15 Comments on “Planting season begins”

  1. #1 The Inadvertent Gardener
    on May 18th, 2006 at 5:28 am

    [...] On that first garden-shopping trip to Hy-Vee back in April, I’d picked out a pair of blue gardening gloves. The checkout clerk pointed out they were two-for-one, so I grabbed a green pair, too, and threw them in with the plants I was purchasing. Now, I grabbed the blue pair and slid them on. I crouched down next to the pile and began to separate dirt from grassroots, as fast as I could, making every attempt to stay ahead of Steve’s shoveling. [...]

  2. #2 Jenn
    on May 18th, 2006 at 1:57 pm

    Do not put the mint into the ground. Put it in a big pot and you will be happy you did.

  3. #3 inadvertentgardener
    on May 18th, 2006 at 4:12 pm


    No worries — the mint inherited the pot where the cherry tomatoes started! I feared mad bolting of mint…I didn’t want it to take over the whole plot. So far, it’s doing great in the pot.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    :-) Genie

  4. #4 Vera Bauer
    on May 20th, 2006 at 12:57 pm

    I just can’t use gloves. I have bout’8 pair and every time I put a pair on I take them off without even noticing.

  5. #5 inadvertentgardener
    on May 20th, 2006 at 1:39 pm


    I’ve got to admit, I’m not a big fan of the gloves either. I bought cheapie ones, too, so they’re kind of hot and plasticky. Still…I suppose it’s part of the whole gardening thing. We’ll see how long I continue using them…


  6. #6 Susan Hurst
    on Jun 9th, 2006 at 3:39 pm

    For years I gardened without gloves, until I was gifted a pair of (relatively expensive) fitted gloves with mesh backs and leather palms. I LOVE MY GLOVES! When I wore them out I immediately got another. Get a pair of really well made, fitted gloves, and you will never go without again. Besides, anyone who thinks that scratches and blisters and torn fingernails are the sign of a ‘real’ gardener is just acting snooty .

  7. #7 inadvertentgardener
    on Jun 9th, 2006 at 6:05 pm


    You prove the theory that you get what you pay for! I probably ought to just spring for a decent pair…the ones I bought on the fly at Hy-Vee are really terrible. So far, I’ve been lucky — no blisters and not too many scratches — but as the garden rises in intensity, I’ll be in there much more often.

    Thanks for stopping by!


  8. #8 One year later, the garden accidents continue « The Inadvertent Gardener
    on May 6th, 2007 at 12:11 am

    [...] today’s celebration, for example. One year ago today, I posted my first entry. (Actually, truth be told, I wrote three posts and then back-posted by two days so I could send the [...]

  9. #9 The arrival of the tomato circus « The Inadvertent Gardener
    on May 15th, 2007 at 9:52 pm

    [...] The weather outside could not have been more beautiful, so I took the box right outside and opened it up. There, inside six cardboard tubes, sat my seedlings, each one looking healthier than the next. These were better than any seedling I’d bought last year, and they came from a box rather than a temporary Quonset hut. [...]

  10. #10 Bite me « The Inadvertent Gardener
    on Oct 9th, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    [...] Published May 25, 2006 Pests Just after I bought my first set of plants this year, I heard a commentary on NPR by Elizabeth Gilbert. Her recently published memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, [...]

  11. #11 Breaking ground « The Inadvertent Gardener
    on Oct 9th, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    [...] that first garden-shopping trip to Hy-Vee back in April, I’d picked out a pair of blue gardening gloves. The checkout clerk pointed out [...]

  12. #12 Three years, one post at a time – The Inadvertent Gardener
    on May 6th, 2009 at 7:59 am

    [...] my blog started as an asparagus crown, by today, it would be ready for full production. Three years ago today, I started telling the story of a girl with a garden and no idea what to do with [...]

  13. #13 The tomato effect – The Inadvertent Gardener
    on Jan 21st, 2010 at 8:49 am

    [...] me. Not regret, not hindsight, not a revision of memory, just a momentary reminder of where all this began, and where things are not [...]

  14. #14 Go west, young gardener – The Inadvertent Gardener
    on Jan 21st, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    [...] celebrating. First, I’m celebrating two years of blogging – Post #1 went up on the site on May 6, 2006. I have loved every minute of it. I’ve met amazing people, made wonderful friends, and been [...]

  15. #15 Dirt, and dirt alone – The Inadvertent Gardener
    on Jun 9th, 2010 at 5:59 am

    [...] have rebelled against the issue of putting drainage material in the bottom of containers since I started gardening in Iowa. From day one of this adventure, I took one look at the bags of pea gravel and thought, Haul a [...]

Leave a Comment