I am, like Ouiser Boudreaux in Steel Magnolias, a Southern woman of a certain age that believes part of our heritage is to grow vegetables every summer. I have had mixed success with this.
What? Vegetable gardening in the South is like planting weeds. You can barely get ahead of the bountiful crop of tomatoes, squash and cucumbers. What in the hell is the matter with you?
It’s not me. I promise. I have a thriving vegetable garden at my nonprofit, a veritable cornucopia of fruits and vegetables. But at home, I will never learn. We are surrounded by forest at Chez Mayhew and there are things that come out at night. Sinister things. Things that like to eat the leaves off plants. I think they are possessed.
But this year I ignored all the previous disasters. Fueled by backyard farmers who sustain a family of 16 with their homegrown vegetable patch, I decide to storm the castle again. My wonderful husband, Mark, dug up the garden bed by the house, turned the soil and dumped mulch. What a saint. It was 95 degrees out and here he was in a long-sleeved shirt and jeans to minimize mosquito invasion about to have a heart attack from heat prostration.
So, tomatoes. I will start with tomatoes. And I acquire at considerable expense ($2.49 each) sturdy wire tomato plant protectors that will ward off the things that go bump in the night. I carefully prepare the soil with fertilizer, plant the tomato plants and proceed to laboriously water them about every 30 seconds because we have not had any substantial rain in a few weeks. I figure between the cost of the plants, the mulch, the watering and the labor, each tomato will cost me about $435. But I will have grown them myself, dammit.
So all was going swimmingly until this morning. I eagerly set out the hose to water my…my….OH MY GOD.
They’re practically gone. Devastated. Chewed up. The groundhog. The groundhog that lives under the deck off our bedroom (you can see from the “before” photo that the groundhog would have a direct line of sight from the deck to the tomato plants). He was so cute this spring as he ventured out from hibernation. Now I could almost see him under the deck, sneering at me as he picked shards of tomato leaves out of his teeth.
I briefly consider constructing an electric fence around the perimeter of the garden, but then realize the unit cost of my tomatoes will rise to $674 dollars each. Mark, however, is an optimist. There he was tonight, out at the “tomato patch” watering the stumps. Groundhog stew. I am considering it. With a tomato gravy.