Baby steps in high altitude gardening

So we named the tree “Treedy.”

Like many kids his age, our 6-year-old is fascinated by things that grow. We’d tried a couple of small plants indoors over the winter, all of which promptly died due to a combination of over- and under-watering. Then we found some silly thing at Bed, Bath & Beyond in Dillon that was a little glass jar with a brown, dirt sack of a head made to look like a fireman. Extending from the sack was a wick, which, when in contact with water, purported to have grass-like “hair” sprout from the thing’s head.

My wife told me I was crazy for spending $10 on the thing, but Andy wanted it more than life itself, so I caved.

The thing sprouted, to his delight (and my relief), and continues to sport a thick head of grass hair several months after initial germination. Compared to the piles of plastic junk (a.k.a. “toys”) for which we are merely a stop between China and the landfill, the grass-head fireman turned out to be a pretty decent deal. That is, if you weigh the cost of something against how much time the child actually pays attention to it. (By this measure, the highest return on investment is in a large cardboard box, which is free and provides hours of entertainment.)

After the success of the fireman, it seemed logical to look at the next step up in gardening. After hearing in kindergarten that trees are good for the environment, Andy said he wanted to plant a tree “to save the Earth.”

How do you argue with that? Even though we’re just renting our place, the $4.96 dwarf pine we found at Wal-Mart seemed like a pretty reasonable investment. When I pulled the 18-inch-tall pine from the trunk, Andy was delighted. Next, we had the most excellent opportunity to dig a good-sized hole in the corner of the lawn. Since I’d been out there a week earlier exhorting Andy not to dig holes after getting hits with his metal detector, this was a pretty big deal.

And the hits kept coming: We found several large, wriggling worms in the hole, which Andy was happy to hold in his hand until the time came to reunite them with the earth and its new inhabitant – Treedy.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own experience with plants as a kid. My father had a tremendous garden in our backyard, and it made perfect sense to him that our part of the deal was to weed the damn thing. An even more hated task than cleaning the basement, weeding the garden was seen by me and my sister as some sort of monstrous punishment for a crime we hadn’t committed. And god forbid we step on anything critical we didn’t know about. My dad once hurled a large zucchini at me for stepping on some pea plants (fortunately he had horrible aim, but the image still haunts me).

Weeding later gave way to harvesting, as well as canning many pounds of tomatoes that we enjoyed (I guess) throughout the winter. We also had to contribute to and tolerate the smell of a compost barrel in our kitchen.

Now, of course, I wish I could grow a garden like that. I know some high-altitude gardeners have some success with things other than rhubarb, but I don’t have the time or the land to do it.

So, Treedy is our one little project. We gave it some fertilizer, water it regularly and scan it for signs of growth. It may be doomed come winter, but for now, it seems to be thriving. And, so far as I can tell, no weeding is required.



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