Several times now I’ve asked my brother-in-law, Helm, to stop sending pictures of his garden to my wife. Every time he does, my wife wants to do what he’s done. But he keeps forgetting, and while I don’t blame him for wanting to share the genius of his gardening techniques, I do blame him for bragging about it to my wife.
Last January, my wife bought a greenhouse, because Helm got one. But he lives at Latitude 37.21, which gets colder and stays that way longer than where we live, at 28.46. You wouldn’t think a difference of only 8.73 would cause a big change in the weather, but it does. I complained to my wife that she didn’t need a greenhouse, that she should do what I did for years at Old House at this latitude; Use starter trays with clear lids. Miniature greenhouses! You can put those anywhere as long as there’s light. But no, she wanted a greenhouse, so she bought a simple one of metal tubes that clicked together and a one-piece cover of green plastic for the roof and walls, and it was held to the ground by eight stakes inside and four stakes outside at the corners with cords, like a tent. Took me about two hours to set it up, and it was actually pretty nice for something I still think is needless.
Then this last December she wanted exactly what Helm has, a greenhouse with ridged panels, so she ordered one online. It came from someplace I couldn’t find on a map. The instructions were contradictory, the drawings were disproportionate, and there were 559 parts, not counting the two little wrenches. I studied the forty-seven pages of the stapled manual for three weeks, on and off, and reluctantly attempted its construction in January.
After four hours of knee work with little nuts and bolts and trying to hold panels closed within the uprights, my wife came out to help, but that didn’t help. According to the instructions, I needed another person to hold the back wall while I put together the front wall. Ha! Together we couldn’t keep the back wall from disassembling itself. So I decided to give up on it, and my wife grudgingly agreed.
I have since determined that I would have needed eight people, one on each corner and one on each side to keep it from falling over before I could assemble the roof. But even if I had finished it, I recognized that the whole thing was top-heavy, that over time a gentle wind would eventually rock it back and forth until it collapsed. As far as I can tell, the mysterious manufacturer had sent us a non-functional display that belongs indoors. It took me the rest of January and the first week of February to throw it all away in the blue dumpster, a little at a time. I had immediately tossed those flat wrenches in the kitchen garbage can. And this was after I took down and tossed the tent version.
You might think, as I had hoped, that my wife would have come to her senses. A couple of eighteen-pot starter trays will grow anything you want for a backyard garden. It did for me, during my green thumb days, including at least two things she never grows, black-eyed peas and okra, both of which insist on producing whether you water them or not. But no, oh Tubular Bells no! She ordered another greenhouse, this time a gazebo style. It took me, all by myself, forty minutes to put that up, not counting the time I spent measuring and cutting a silver tarp for the floor. And later I put together three wire shelves for the inside.
I never explored her first greenhouse, so I don’t know what she was doing there. But I might peek in this time, and I swear that if I find she’s using starter trays, I just might have to see a doctor about prescribing me tranquilizers. Or perhaps, between mugs of coffee, I’ll start sipping cups of herbal tea. Hey, I wonder if I can start that in a tray?