This is exactly why I’m afraid of ever taking up gardening and why I want to be good at gardening:
to produce a meaningful amount of food, you need land, a fence, beds, soil, tools, organic material, mulch, and the plants themselves. Those plants get thirsty, and even the nicest neighbors can’t be counted on to irrigate the pumpkins conscientiously during your two-week vacation, and when they don’t and everything withers, all you can do is say thanks and give them that bottle of Scotch anyway. I recently priced the installation of a timed irrigation system to address this very problem and the estimates ranged from $1,000 to $3,000. Fortunately, we may not need one, because we’re not sure we can afford a vacation this summer.
It takes many, many hours of toil before you harvest enough “free” eggplant and bell peppers to make a bowl of ratatouille. Though I doubt the Obamas will experience much of this, gardening is incredibly messy, ruins your hands, wears holes in the knees of your jeans, ends up costing 40 times more than you think it will, sucks up whole weekends in a single gulp, takes over your dreams, and frequently breaks your heart.
On Sundays, I listen to desperate people call into BBC Radio 4’s gardening show with tales of woe and horror. Plants have died. Plants refuse to survive. Often nothing can be done. Other times, the only thing that can be done is hard, boring and expensive. Gardening, like war, is a force that gives us meaning.