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Here's the dirt on vegetables

Jerry, Jerry, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

Not too well, unfortunately, because my green thumb is probably a fungus and my wife, Sue, is the real gardener in the family. I just provide the fertilizer.

But since the weather was nice and we wanted to get out of the house, where Sue has been stuck with me since the quarantine began, I decided to help start her garden, where she will grow all the vegetables I don't like but have to eat anyway because, as Sue often tells me, "they're good for you."

To which I invariably reply, "I'm a vegetable myself. Isn't that good enough?"

Apparently not, so Sue and I went to the landfill to get free topsoil.

"It's even better than dirt cheap," I said as I shoveled the stuff into two large lawn and garden bags, which weighed so much that lifting them into the car was a pain in the asparagus.

When we got home, I unloaded the loam, sweet loam and went to the shed, a dilapidated structure housing tools that, to call a spade a spade, I hate. That's because they are dangerous weapons in my hands, which often bleed as a result, and are used to grow the vegetables I hate even more.

One of the tools I brought out looked like a spade, but Sue corrected me.

"That's an ice chopper!" she said incredulously. "Wrong season. A lot you know about planting a garden."

I knew enough to bring out more appropriate tools, including a shovel, a hoe, a leaf rake, an iron rake and a trowel.

I ripped open the bags of soil and dumped them into the garden, a small patch measuring 10 feet by 5 feet in which Sue planned to plant beets, onions, string beans, peppers, basil, cucumbers and, with apologies to Simon and Garfunkel, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

She also will grow tomatoes, which I like because botanically they aren't vegetables but fruits, and squash, which I dislike more than anything that grows in nature with the possible exception of poison ivy, though it probably tastes better.

"Why don't you like squash?" Sue asked.

"Because," I replied, "I'd rather play tennis."

Sue rolled her eyes, through which she noticed that I was standing there, a shovel in one hand, an iron rake in the other, like one half of the famous Grant Wood painting "American Gothic."

"Are you the Farmer in the Dell?" Sue asked.

"I'm more like the Farmer in the Dull," I responded.

Sue didn't disagree.

"Or," I added, "if you pickle the cucumbers, I'd be the Farmer in the Dill."

Sue ignored the remark and said, "Last year, I had red hot chili peppers."

"I must have missed the concert," I noted.

"I put them in the freezer," Sue said.

"I guess they're not hot anymore," I told her.

She told me to get going, which meant using the leaf rake to remove leftover autumn leaves, the shovel to dig up clumps of dead grass and the iron rake to spread out the dirt.

Then Sue got down and dirty as she planted rows of onion and beet seeds.

"Do you want me to help?" I asked. "I've gone to seed."

Sue declined my generous offer but warned me to watch out for her chamomile flowers.

"The chamomile fits you to a tea," I said.

"Too bad I can't plant grapes," Sue remarked. "I'd use them to make wine. After being out here with you, I need a glass."

Still, it was a successful start to the garden, where Sue will grow all the greens that are supposedly good for me.

"Thanks," I said as I put away the tools. "Now I can throw in the trowel."

- Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Hearst Connecticut Media Group, which includes his hometown paper, theStamford Advocate. His column is distributed by Tribune News Service of Chicago and has run in newspapers nationwide and abroad. He is also the author of four books,Leave It to Boomer, The Empty Nest Chronicles, Grandfather Knows BestandNini and Poppie's Excellent Adventures, all of which are "crimes against literature." He has won seven awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for his humorous writing.

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