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Family Chatter

It's April, one of my favorite times of year. The days are long enough for the kids to play outside after dinner and there are puddles a-plenty for them to splash in. Best of all, my spring garden is tender and green; lovely with promise. The early-season crops of peas and potatoes are flourishing and the baby lettuces that I recently transplanted are settling in. The daffodils have faded, but the tulips still adorn the flowerbeds and the dogwoods are about to burst into bloom. I don't need to worry yet about my drip irrigation system thanks to those proverbial April showers and I beam with satisfaction as chatter-gardenI survey my domain. This, yes, this will be the year I finally have a successful garden!

2013 will be entirely unlike last year when I got not a single tomato off my three vines. When I harvested approximately seven pea pods from two dozen plants. When an unusually warm March fooled my dwarf peach tree into blooming early and a subsequent frost killed all the fruit. When what I thought was broccoli turned out to be mostly ornamental cabbages. When the hot peppers my daughter chose at the garden center proved to be so hot that she could eat only one or two — of the four we managed to grow — mixed generously with rice. 2012 was also the year that I redid my drip irrigation system, spending hours on my hands and knees adjusting those little spigots and carefully threading the hose among my tiny plants to have it work wonderfully...on only half the garden.

But wait, it gets better! My biggest effort last summer was sweet corn. I bought 20-plus plants at Roxbury. I carefully planted, fertilized and mulched them only to have the squirrels decimate them — one at a time — until there was not a single corn plant standing by mid-June. Meanwhile, my neighbors down the street had corn plants 6 feet tall. Why didn't the squirrels eat THOSE plants?, I wondered. My only consolation (albeit of a mean-spirited sort) was when the derecho whipped through our area in late June and toppled their corn plants. Squirrels or storms the end results were the same and there was no sweet corn to be had on my street in 2012.

I've had bad luck in earlier years, too. In the past, I've watched as birds stripped my blueberry bushes and as drought killed my stevia. Some indignities go without a witness and are discovered only upon harvest. Yes, I'm talking about you, evil voles that gnawed on every last one of my potatoes in spring 2011!

Hope is still alive and well in April. My kids and I will go to the garden center and pick out more plants to try. Herbs are usually safe. Green beans have been a decent, if not outstanding, success for a couple of years, so I'll give those a shot again. And I think I can now identify broccoli correctly. But corn, no I don't think I have the heart to try corn again just yet. Maybe in 2014...just maybe.

Mary Becelia lives with her family in southern Stafford County.

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