My 39, Day 14.

My first Texas spring could not get here fast enough. I’d sketched out the garden plot that was to be, carefully measured for the lumber it would require, and learned all I could about the gardening norms of Zone 8a.

With the frame built – a spacious rectangle in the most direct patch of afternoon sunlight – I could not fill it fast enough.

Into the backyard I hauled bag after bag of soil conditioner and topsoil. Tilling the dirt, I envisioned a summer full of mouthwatering Better Boys and shiny large bells, just as beautiful as those top dollar MiracleGro bags implied.

Fool me once.

My bells were shiny – but tiny (hipster micro greens ahead of their time?)

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Early Girl outdid Better Boy, and that’s not saying much. Maybe a handful of salad sized maters all told. Super Sweet 100 straight up revolted, with nary a bloom before Texas summer heat shut it down completely.

As excited as I was to see little bursts of red Quinault strawberries on the vine, the birds beat me to them. Every. Single. Time.

My Straight Eight cucumber vine grew and grew and grew – with nothing but male blooms for weeks on end. When the female blooms finally appeared – nada. Determined to make it work, I was the idiot out there in the garden, with my watercolor paintbrush attempt to “hand pollinate” them, much to the amusement of golfers who whizzed by on their carts no doubt wondering what the hell I was doing. For all that effort, the only cukes that made it onto my dinner table still came from a grocery store.

A week ago I picked the last jalapeno peppers of the season – easily a top performer in my garden of high hopes.

In the end, I was happiest with the plants that demanded the least – the basil, parsley, and thyme. And courtesy of Once Upon a Chef, I’ve used them liberally throughout the summer to replace store bought Italian with this delicious homemade version. (I’ve just harvested the rest for homemade pesto, happening in my kitchen tonight.)

With the cold weather finally, really, truly here, it’s time for me to dig up the remains of my April attempt, and start anew.

I’m on proper bed prep now, nerding out on knowledge about worthwhile amendments versus wives’ tale wisdom.

Once the garden has overwintered into hopefully the most hospitable little patch of dirt ever, I’ll focus on the strategic trimming of a few tree limbs, figuring out a drip irrigation system, and trying this endeavor all over again.

This would be gardener isn’t about to give up.