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You don’t need a green thumb to enjoy gardening

News Photo by Darby Hinkley This pink dahlia is one of the plants Darby is trying to keep alive in her Alpena yard. It’s been dry. Very dry.

If I have any color thumb, it’s purple.

It’s definitely not green, much to my Opa’s chagrin. I’ve been using his old hoe to attempt to put a 4-foot-by-4-foot square vegetable garden in a sunny spot in our back yard. I have little to no idea what I’m doing. I mean, I know how to look up YouTube videos, so I’m basically a master gardener (I wish!).

You know what I’ve decided, though? My wish can come true if I just work at it.

I figure it’s pretty simple. I’m probably wrong, but here’s my plan.

Buy some plants.

News Photo by Darby Hinkley The above black cat petunia is catching some sunlight in Darby’s front yard. She buys these for herself every spring since they were the last flowers her late dad bought for her. She admires their depth and dark beauty.

Buy some dirt. (Yes, I struggled with that one, too. I’m literally handing someone real money to give me a big bag of dirt? I must be an idiot …).

Dig a mediumly shallowish hole the size of your liking in a place you hopefully own or have rights to that receives a lot of sunlight.

Take plants out of current containers. (Duh, right? But still, there might be that one guy …).

Place plants, soil side down (again, that one guy), spaced about eight inches apart, in rows also spaced about eight inches apart, to create what looks like a bunch of plant soldiers lined up, saluting the sky. It also just looks like a garden.

Dump some of the special fancy dirt you bought at the dirt store into a bucket or the cylindrical receptacle of your choosing, then use a spade (it’s like a spoon, a knife, and a shovel had a baby … it’s hard to explain. They have them at the dirt store. Ask a guy. But not that one guy …) OK, even I forgot which clause I was on. Oh yes, use the spade to shovel the dirt gently around the base of each plant, then pack it in with your hands. I forgot to mention that some people use gardening gloves. I like getting my hands dirty, so maybe I left that out on purpose.

News Photo by Darby Hinkley These purple and white flower baskets hang in Darby's front yard.

Once you’re done packing the magical unicorn rainbow soil around the base of each delicate green beacon of hope, make sure the ground is level in the garden area. That is where the hoe comes in. A hoe looks like a dowel with a flat metal head at the end. It should be run gently over the fresh soil to create a smooth surface. It’s almost like frosting a giant dirt cake with the candles already on.

Time to water! If you’re a cool kid, maybe you have one of those pocket hoses that coil up and fit in your purse or whatever, but, if you’re me, you hook up your stupid old green rubber hose you’ve been cussing at for eight years and you cuss at it some more, promising it this is the year you replace it, yet knowing you’ll keep it around. Anyway, spray water on the garden for like, I dunno, 15 minutes? Just do it till you get tired or bored. That’s what I do, and I have very, very little success to prove that it works.

OK, here’s the weird part. Someone who knows stuff about gardening, I think, told me that to keep the deer away from your precious plants, you should get Irish Spring soap, put it in thin nylon stockings, and hang it in the corners of your garden. So, I’m going to try it. I like doing silly things, so what’s the harm? If it works, swell. If not … you know what? It’s gonna work.

Lastly, and most importantly, is consistent monitoring, watering, and care. Check on the garden daily. Water it daily. On hot days, water it morning and evening. Do not water it in the heat of the day. Don’t ask me why. It’s just better when the sun’s not beating down on the soil. I think it has something to do with chlorophyll, but I can barely spell that, so maybe just ask an actual master gardener.

Oh, I also have some flowers going in the front yard, but there’s not a whole lot to report there. Flowers are my favorite, specifically dahlias, with lilies a close second, and peonies not far behind. I’m enjoying the lilac bush in my yard, as well. The only problem with flowers is you can’t eat them.

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Lilacs are in full bloom in Darby's front yard, and they smell divine!

Growing vegetables is exciting because you take the plant through the process of life, especially if you start from seed, which I may try in the future. Eating a plant you’ve grown with your own hands is satisfying. You have completed the plant’s purpose, which is to give you life. We must remember to nurture and protect our plants, and have fun while doing it.

I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m giving it a try! If you’ve ever thought of gardening, give it a shot. And if you have any tips for this beginner, I’ll take ’em!

Darby Hinkley can be found up to her elbows in expensive dirt in her yard in Alpena. Honk if you see her out in the yard, and she’ll wave! If you don’t know where she lives, she’s not telling. Email your gardening tips to dhinkley@thealpenanews.com.

News Photo by Darby Hinkley This speckled yellow lily sits on Darby's front step.

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