By: Mary Fran Bontempo

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garden toolsNote to self: The next time a plan involves words like shovel, dirt, rocks, digging, cuts, bruises, pain relievers and antibiotic ointment, get a new plan.

No, I was not demolishing or building a house. Or a highway. And I wasn’t on a road crew as part of a criminal sentence, although at times it felt like it.

What I was doing was planting a garden in my backyard.

This was one of those ideas that sounded like a good one at the time. Kind of like most of my ideas, until I begin to execute them. I mean, picture it: a warm spring day spent tilling the soil, the rich smell of earth permeating the air. Tender plants gently laid in beds, soon to produce a summer’s worth of nature’s bounty. Me, in my matching J. Crew slacks and sweater, spotless garden gloves covering my manicure, delicately poking at the ground with a color coordinated garden trowel while the Secret Service looks on….

Oh wait, that’s not me, that’s Michelle Obama.

The First Lady has made the whole gardening thing seem so appealing. And I imagine it is, when you’re out on the White House lawn posing for a photo op only to then hand the hoe and spade off to some guy wearing sunglasses and an earpiece, saying, “Hey, let me know when you’re finished digging this up, will you? Then I’ll come back and toss in a few plants for some more pics. Right now, I need some iced tea; I’m exhausted.”

My experience went more like this: Decide to plant garden in overgrown weed patch in back yard. Drive to Lowe’s. Wrestle multiple 40 pound bags of top soil into cart. Wrench back. Push cart and 240 pounds of dirt over to plants. Select way too many plants for allotted garden space. Bruise shins when racing to stop cart and dirt from rolling into parking lot. Put $117.48 on credit card for supplies. Have the one smart moment in this whole train wreck of an idea and pay kid to load dirt into car. Drive home.

Attempt to clear out weed patch with shovel and hoe. Discover weed patch is also a rock patch. Spend several hours clearing rocks and feeling a sudden kinship with quarry workers. Haul bags of dirt into wheelbarrow and lug into yard. Wrench back. Again. Unload dirt and spread throughout garden.

Lay out plants. Try and figure out what to do with eight extra plants. Plant whatever fits in garden space and scrounge around for flower pots to dump remaining plants. Realize I need more dirt for flower pots. Swear. A lot. Say “The Hell with it” and jam all remaining plants into one flower pot. Hope for the best. Water entire mess, breathe a sigh of relief and watch as dog suddenly walks into new garden and pees near the tomatoes. Swear some more, throw shovel and hoe across the yard and go inside to shower.

Yelp in pain as soap and water hit cuts and bruises. Slather on antibiotic ointment. Gulp down two Ibuprofen, flop exhausted onto bed and try to forget the whole thing.

I still applaud Michelle Obama and her gardening initiative. I’m sure she does work hard in her garden. And maybe my garden will actually produce some food. Probably not $117.48 worth, but who knows?

If it does, I’ll be sure to take some of my own pictures. And when next year rolls around, I’ll look back on them with pride…and go to the grocery store.

What are your gardening experiences? Click “comments” below and share!