Frog and Toad, my not-so-green thumb, and a call for help

As you can see from the title, I am taking a different approach with our blog this week. I love blogging about reading and writing, but I want to include people beyond book lovers. So, my compromise is reflections inspired by children’s books. I will post every Tuesday, so I can participate in the Slice of Life blog hosted by Hope you enjoy.

This week’s passage is from “The Garden” in Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel. For those of you who have not read the Frog and Toad books, Frog and Toad are best friends who do everything together. They are wonderfully distinct characters; in fact, whether you are “a Frog” or “a Toad” is probably an important philosophical question we should all ask ourselves at some point, but I’ll save that for another blog. In “The Garden,” Toad admires Frog’s garden and wants one too, so Frog gives him seeds. Toad runs home, plants the seeds, and then the following passage ensues:

“Now seeds,’” Toad said, “start growing.” Toad walked up and down a few times. The seeds did not start to grow. Toad put his head close to the ground and said loudly, “Now seeds, start growing!” Toad looked at the ground again. The seeds did not start to grow. Toad put his head very close to the ground and shouted, “NOW SEEDS, START GROWING!”


A confession first: Matt, an excellent gardener, put in our garden this year because I have no idea how to do such things. He did not want a garden because he is a forester, which means he spends eight hours a day hiking in the woods often wielding heavy equipment. He (rightly) wanted to relax after work, not weed. However, in my excitement over my recent move to the country, I guilted him into planting one because who doesn’t have a garden in the country, right? I promised to tend to it but then never did. So, I will readily admit that all garden successes discussed are 100% due to Matt and all garden failures are 100% due to me.

It is probably clear by now that I am more of a Toad than a Frog when it comes to gardening (alas). Matt has been away these past two weeks, so I have taken over garden duties. Yesterday, I picked the first of our cherry tomatoes, and it was a transforming experience. Yes, I knew food from a garden was better than store-bought food, but I had forgotten how much better it was. I joyfully ate all our cherry tomatoes for breakfast this morning.

I then resolved to contact my sister-in-law, Melisa, for gardening advice (I think she has superhuman gardening talents- see below). I am already excited about my successful gardening blog next year but in the meantime, I’ve been reflecting on my mistakes this year. Not surprisingly, some are reasonable, some are embarrassing. This is what I have learned thus far:

  1. Taking measures to keep animals out of your garden is perhaps wise. At least two rows that Matt planted were instantaneously eaten by deer or some other lucky woodland creature.
  2. Some understanding of how much you should water your garden is helpful. I suspect our garden suffered from me not knowing how much water is too little or too much. I think I was guilty of both at times.
  3. The ability to identify a weed is useful. This is one I had been confident about until Matt mumbled something indecipherable under his breath when I volunteered to weed one day while he was at work. I decided I would rather have a garden full of weeds than have Matt come home to discover I had diligently pulled up everything he planted.
  4. Having some awareness of what was planted and where it was planted is both good for the garden and my ego, as it will likely lead to significantly fewer embarrassing moments. By the time I took over garden duties, seeing the plants through the weeds was difficult. I discovered our cucumbers today by complete accident. I suppose I should also add it is important to realize that garden-food can look different from store-food. The spiky cucumbers threw me for a loop, so I called Matt about it. He was confused by my spiky description: “Are you talking about the cucumbers? They’re hairy, Kate.” Spiky seems more accurate to me (another tip: wear gardening gloves), but regardless store cucumbers are neither spiky nor hairy. I also learned it is especially important to be aware of green foods, as they (surprise, surprise) blend with the leaves. When Matt asked about the peppers, I said that they hadn’t come in yet. He then mentioned he planted green peppers, so I looked a little closer and realized we had peppers galore.

So that’s all I’m willing to confess at the moment (yes, believe it or not, there are things more silly than not being able to correctly identify a cucumber!). In “The Garden,” Frog assumes his seeds are not growing because they are afraid of the dark. He spends four nights reading stories, singing, reading poetry, and playing music to the seeds. If this is what it took to have a successful garden, I’d like to state that I’d be an excellent gardener. However, I am open to alternatives. So, if any of you have gardening stories (even if they are examples of not-so-green thumb moments to make me feel better) or tips to share, I’d love to hear from you. How do you keep critters away? What do you like to grow best? Why do you like gardening? Please comment below and share with others. We look forward to hearing your stories and advice!


My garden…really, it’s there.


Melisa’s cornucopia!


Niece and nephew, the next generation of super gardeners. Their skills have already surpassed mine, no doubt.

14 thoughts on “Frog and Toad, my not-so-green thumb, and a call for help

  1. Gardening woes are too prevalent in my world. In fact I wrote about my tomato issues today. How lucky you are to have a sister-in-law with an incredibly green thumb! I love how you discovered the hidden vegetables. Next year will be better,at least you can tell yourself that (I do :-))

  2. Looks like you are off to a good start. If Matt helps you out again next year maybe a “map” of what is planted where will help!
    Seed catalogs start arriving in January, enjoy!

  3. Thanks, Elsie! I am telling myself I have nowhere to go but up! Thus far, the tomatoes are our #1 success story, which is great because they are my favorite. I’m excited about learning more!

  4. I’m excited to have you join us with the SOLSC, Jane!

    I only have an herb garden. My next door neighbor has a huge organic garden in her backyard. I don’t know that I have the time, energy, or strength to commit myself to something like that during this season of my life. Maybe in a few years…

    LOVE the photo of your veggies. What a bounty!

    • Hi Stacey,

      Thanks- I’m excited to join the SOLSC community as well! I just started blogging, and I’ve really enjoyed finding other blogs to follow through SOLSC. An herb garden is a great idea! I currently am not much of a cook, and I think becoming more familiar w/ herbs might be a fun way to start experimenting w/ cooking.

  5. You learn from experimenting. Since my mom and sister both have green thumbs, I keep away from the garden and green house. I am good at holding a basket when my sister collects the crops. I am very good at eating everything.

  6. It’s very funny about missing the peppers & the ‘spiky’ cucumbers. Love it. I haven’t had even a tomato plant for a long time, since I thought my kids should learn how to plant, but maybe one garden box this coming year in my new home? The last time, tomato worms ate all my tomatoes! But-keeping the critters out-former neighbors built an entire fenced & screened garden-no bunnies entered! It was a lot of work, but they were serious canners too & didn’t want to lose a thing!

    • A fence might be in order- although I don’t what animals we need to keep out. Apparently, my sister-in-law just planted stuff on the outside of her garden that she knew deer didn’t like, and she hasn’t had a problem w/ animals. I think half the fun is going to be experimenting w/ things….haha, assuming I improve. If I don’t, it could be very frustrating!

  7. For the most part, gardening is a learn-as-you-go endeavor. The first garden I ever had was consumed by weeds (WI) and the second- the soil was so dry and infertile (in the desert of SW Colorado), I didn’t get a single vegetable. And that was when I used to BUY all my starter plants. You can imagine my frustration after dropping hundreds on my failed experiment! Over time, I’ve learned that the single most important thing is soil quality. And I still learn that the hard way. Again and again. This was the first year that I put in a big plot in the country. The land owners complained that the soil had high clay content and would set up like concrete. If I didn’t hoe constantly, plants couldn’t get their roots deep enough and their growth would be stunted.
    We had such a wet, late spring, I didn’t have much time to amend the soil. I just needed to get my little seedlings out of their pots and into the ground. So I planted, despite being warned that something was amiss. And then I waited. Things seemed to be coming along nicely. I hoed. I observed. I thinned. I picked my first greens and radishes. Fast forward to July- and it seemed everything had come to a screeching halt. Tomatoes were getting yellow and leggy. Beets ceased growing. Peas weren’t flowering. So I brought my trusty rusty soil test kit out to the garden one day and sure enough– alkaline soil. Clay wasn’t the problem, per se, the pH was way too high for the plants to be able to utilize the nutrients in the soil. Clay has a tendency to be nutrient rich, but also has a high pH so nutrients get bound up in the soil. Amending pH is not like increasing a specific nutrient like Nitrogen- altering the pH takes years and lots of labor. So now I know. Some things did well (beans, certain greens, herbs and medicinals) so I can increase my planting of those crops as I work to improve the soil each year. Or I could move to Coon Valley which has the one of highest levels of organic matter in the soil than anywhere else in the US. I think. I’ll let you know what I decide.
    Congratulations on your first garden (and your blog!)- I’d say it’s a success! XO

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