Many years ago, my therapist told me to start gardening to help with my anxiety and ADD, but I lived in an apartment with no outdoor space, and my cats have eaten every indoor plant I’ve ever been foolish enough to bring home. It was several years before I found myself living somewhere with a small patch of backyard, and in those intervening years, I had developed some big dreams. I threw myself mind, body, and soul into those 70 square feet. I dug up every speck of dirt, combed out every weed, mulched, aerated, and everything else the internet told me to do. I put in all sorts of bulbs and flowers and fledgling vegetable plants—beneath my bedroom window I planted a small herb garden so I could wake up to the scent of fresh thyme, basil, and catnip. The repetitive motions and the smell of fresh soil lulled me into a state of hyperfocus; while my body was a bit sore from all the manual labor, it was also experiencing some of the deepest relaxation it had ever known. Once the final seed was sown, I was full of pride and optimism. I, much like God or the Night King, was bringing forth life from a desolate earth. It was beautiful.
Within the first week, everything got destroyed by birds and rats, because I live in Southwest Baltimore where the birds and rats are also an organized crime syndicate. They unearthed all the seeds, chewed through every stalk, and covered everything with poop. The herb garden somewhat survived, but what I hadn’t thought about while trying to be a loving cat mom is that when you plant catnip outdoors, you’ve built yourself a hot-sheets motel for 3 a.m. cat orgies. While I found the first dozen or so to be annoying, eventually I came to embrace the orgies: it turned out I had, in some way, brought life to the desolate earth. I made a lot of cats very happy that year, but I didn’t plant a garden the next year, or the one after that.
This year, I’m attempting another garden. But this time, I’ve put everything in pots and posted lots of pictures of birds and rats with broken knees so no one decides to get smart with me. I’m growing tomatoes, peppers, squash, sorrel, herbs, and, yes, catnip, which I’ve moved as far away from my bedroom window as possible. It’s been a week and nothing is dead yet. I’ll be posting the occasional update on my babies (or any rats I’ve fought off) to my Instagram Stories, where I would appreciate any tips or words of encouragement as the summer goes on, because I have no idea what I’m doing but am determined not to let anything die. There is nothing more relaxing than indulging in an activity with life-or-death stakes.
Are you growing anything this year?