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Shopping lists are overrated (until they’re not)

When I arrived at the garden center, I had two jobs: Buy pots, and buy dirt.

This should seem pretty simple. Three plants, so three pots. Right? And enough dirt for said pots. Indeed.

But here’s the thing: I didn’t make a list, and I was trying to get home to my husband and baby, and it’s Oakland, so I’d already had an epic battle to get a parking space in the tiny garden center lot. (That’s probably worth its own blog post, and perhaps its own blog. I won’t get into it here.) That meant I was slightly distracted, and, per usual, already hamstrung by my inability to figure out how much dirt goes in a given pot.

For those of you who haven’t been following along quite as long as I’ve been blogging, I started The Inadvertent Gardener in May 2006. Nine years ago, it probably made sense that I hadn’t figured out volumes. Now? I don’t have that much of an excuse.

But I am just going to go ahead and blame all of this on the gardening industry. They sell pots with diameters. Diameters are not volume. Diameter is important, sure, because how else do you know if your pots are going to fit where you intend to put them? (Unless, like me, you hadn’t really thought that part out before getting to the garden center, either.) But diameter is missing depth, which means you have to kind of eyeball whether or not there’s enough room for whatever roots of whatever plant you’re trying to grow, and without depth, you can’t figure out volume.

Bags of dirt? They’re sold by the cubic foot. THAT’S VOLUME.

So, let’s start with my first problem: I got in the garden center and my brain kind of shut down for a minute, and then I decided that I needed marigolds (six-packs available right there), and really, some basil, too. But then I still only bought three pots. And one of them was sized down. You know, FOR THE BASIL.

In other words, my brain edited out an entire tomato plant as I was shopping. And inserted basil. And some flowers for which I did not actually purchase any pots at all. And, besides, I couldn’t figure out volume, so I just did the equivalent of stabbing at the air when it came to selecting bags of dirt.

Oh, and, just to make things more difficult? This garden center wanted you to figure out what potting soil you wanted by looking at a row of bags manned by a curly-haired dude who didn’t really want you to pick any of them up. I mean, not that I think picking up a bag of potting soil would have unlocked the key to volume either, but it meant I was completely stabbing at the air with an imaginary pencil at this point.

“I’ll take five bags like this,” I said to the checkout clerk, pointing at the one I had sneaked out of the aisle of dirt before the curly-haired dude caught me and explained the rules.

The clerk took my money, I took my dirt, and basil, and marigolds, and two bigger pots, and one smaller pot, and one trowel for good measure, and I loaded up for home.

3 Comments on “Shopping lists are overrated (until they’re not)”

  1. #1 Karen Davis
    on Jul 24th, 2015 at 7:14 am

    And different soil mixes have different weights so the whole thing is just crazy making…and dirt as it turns out is not cheap.

  2. #2 Diana
    on Jul 24th, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    That curly-haired clerk would have ruined everything for me and I probably would have gone home empty-handed. How can you buy something without feeling it first? This is the main reason I am incapable of shopping online. I must feel everything. What if it feels too heavy or too light or too coarse or too fine. It might not help with volume, but still… !

  3. #3 inadvertentgardener
    on Jul 27th, 2015 at 11:05 pm

    Karen, RIGHT?!? It’s SO not cheap.

    Diana, heh. Feel it? That would have caused DRAMA. ;-)

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