Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Doctor

I have been riddled with guilt at our dying plants and decided to get an official diagnosis. I lopped off a bit of yellowed, holey leaf from our mostly-dead yellow squash plant and put it in a Ziploc bag to take to the nursery. When I got there Mrs. Personality saw me walk in with a leaf in a bag and immediately announced that I needed to wait in line for the Doctor. I glanced around and saw a man with a pull-cart holding a large red bucket with a half-dead tree limb sticking out. Behind him was a woman with a dead looking wormy thing in a Ziploc bag. I had obviously found the line for "The Doctor." We all gave each other sympathetic glances… like we were all members of the same failing gardener's club.

The Doctor came over to the short line and gave us all the stink eye. The Doctor, as he's called, was one of those old rotund white-haired guys that looks like he should be on a WWII reunion show. He had a faded old ball cap and he'd spent a lot of time in the sun. The Doctor came over to the first man's dead tree limb, pulled it out of the red bucket and tossed it into a large trash can. He said "There - you've got your bucket back. Follow me." The man and The Doctor wandered over to a section with a lot of bags and bottles and I could see him explaining what was wrong with the man's tree - then the man went to the cash register with an armful of stuff. The Doctor then came over to the woman with the dead wormy thing in the bag. He sneered at it and held it up to the light and told her to follow him to the bottles and bags section. She put the wormy thing back in her purse and then she went to the cash register with a white bottle.

It was our turn. The Doctor came over to us and said 'What do you need?' I handed him our bag. He said "What you been feeding your plants?" I said "huh? Um…I dunno…. Soil?" He said "This plant is suffering from malnutrition. Simple." Then he got my bag and tossed it into the trash on top of the tree limb and said "What kind of fertilizer have you been using?" I said "I…uh… I guess we used some when we first got the soil ready. We tested our soil. It was good. I think we -" He cut me off and said 'You put a handful of fertilizer in the hole before you put the plant in, right?" I said "No, I didn't think that -" He shook his head and said "Well what did you expect it to eat then?" I stared blankly. He pointed to my 2-year-old's stomach and said "You feed him don't you? So why don't you feed your plants?"

He had a good point. He brought me over to the bags and bottles section and tossed me a bag of Gardener's Special Plant Food and told me to sprinkle a handful around the bottom of each plant and water it in. Repeat every 30 days. He also said that when I water the garden that I'm doing it wrong by watering it for only 15 minutes. He said if it doesn’t rain I must water the garden for 25 minutes. Period. I still felt like some sort of evil bugs must have been eating the leaves and asked him if he was sure there wasn't any sort of insect damage. The Doctor looked insulted - "I don't know," he said "It was hard to see past that severely malnourished plant."

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