“We can’t plant stuff in the ground,” I said.
“Eugenia,” Steve said. He only uses my full name when he’s very, very serious. “There is no reason why not.”
“If something is in a pot and it dies, it’s very easy to just pull it up and either hide the pot or put something else in the pot,” I said. “Plus, planting in the ground involves digging up the yard.”
“Randy said it was OK,” he said. “Besides, think about everything you want to plant. It’s too much for pots.”
“Totally untrue,” I said. “Tomatoes are fine in pots. Sage, mint, basil, parsley—all fine in pots. We could even do zucchini in a pot, I bet, as long as it’s a big pot.”
But Steve was adamant. He abandoned his half-empty dinner plate and stepped to the white board on our refrigerator. “What do we want to plant?”
Parsley. Basil. Chili pepper. Big tomato. Zucchini. He scrawled them all in a list on the whiteboard.
“Corn,” he said. “I want one giant stalk of corn.”
“We can’t grow corn!”
“We’re in Iowa.”
He added Corn (1) to the list.
“Now,” he said. “We need a digging thing.”
“I bought a trowel at Hy-Vee.”
Steve stopped and stared at me. “A trowel? Genie, we’re going to need a shovel.”
“Could we use a snow shovel? There’s a snow shovel downstairs.” Even as I said it, I knew the suggestion would be rejected outright. He wrote Digging thing on the whiteboard.
“We need topsoil,” he said. “We can get that at a garden center.”
“Or at Paul’s Discount!” I said, thrilled to actually be able to contribute some useful information to the plan. Paul’s Discount is a weird little store at the edge of Iowa City that sells a conglomeration of everything from household goods to auto supplies, all bought in random quantities at great discount and sold to consumers willing to suffer uneven inventory for a bargain. I had noticed giant pallets of what appeared to be garden-related dirt had arrived a few days earlier. Soil/Paul’s discount store on Rt. 1 went on the board.
“You know who we should call?” Steve named our friends Maggie and Heal, who, of all our friends in town, are the most in touch with all things garden- and vegetable-related. They are also friendly, and tolerant of people in need of guidance. He lunged for the phone and dialed. After a moment, he explained—loudly and with purpose—our gardening venture to their answering machine, then hung up. “They’ll help. They know what they’re doing.”
This, of course, was more than could be said for us. But I have to admit, I was relieved by the thought of borrowing, rather than buying, equipment. At that point, I still wanted to stick to container gardening, so the thought of actually investing in our own shovel seemed like, well, too much of a commitment for me.