Do You Have a Green Thumb?

Johnny-on-the-Spot … by John Foster …

In and around Mansfield, Ohio, I had a bit of a reputation.

There were some who said I could grow grass on blacktop.

I had a neighbor who told me that I would need topsoil added to our yard after it was dug up to install a new septic system.

I said thanks for the thought but I think I can make that old clay soil work.

A couple of bags of peat moss worked into the soil with my roto-tiller, some fertilizer and straw and frequent watering produced a lush, green lawn that I was mowing within 4 weeks, sans topsoil.

My neighbor couldn’t believe it.

One might be tempted to say I have a “green thumb”.

Where did that phrase come from?

First of all, a “green thumb” is for people who have “an unusual or natural talent to make things grow”.

The term may go back to the time of England’s King Edward I.

The king had a fondness for green peas and he would reward the serf who’s thumb was the greenest after shelling his vegetable treats.

There are others who credit “green thumbs” to gardeners who got green digits due to the algae on the plant and flower pots they handled.

I think my “green thumbness” might come from my Mother’s side of the family.

They were farmers.

As a kid, I always had a small garden plot in the backyard that I would tend to with hand tools and I prided myself on growing “different” things.

I grew enough parsley to garnish all the dishes for every restaurant in NYC.

I had a fondness for colorful gourds, Indian corn, carrots and radishes.

I always planted some zinnias and nasturtiums.

Now, I’m fond of cherry tomatoes, hostas and portulaca (moss rose, in some circles).

Portulaca, an annual plant, produce prodigious amounts of tiny seeds in pods when the blooms die off.

Trust me.

They’ll be back next spring.

In some parts of the world, folks think portulaca is invasive.

I like them because they’re colorful, handle dry and heat well and always open up when the morning sun hits them.

I think my green thumb works on lawns and trees, too.

When we bought our current home, the backyard had two trees at the far western edge and a lawn that had killdeer nests and had to be hand-sickled before I could start to grow grass.

It’s pretty thick and green these days thanks to my secret fertilizer formula.

Those two original trees have been joined by a a dozen or more other trees, many raised from seedlings.

Years ago, while station in Greenland with the USAF, I roomed with a guy from Pineville, KY.

Charles Benjamin Venable introduced me to country music and county comic Jerry Clower.

One of Clower’s characters was a guy named “Bully” and Chuck made that my nickname.

For obvious reasons, I nicknamed Chuck “Neck”.

One day, just before “Neck” shipped out for Taiwan, he said, “Bully, I don’t know what your gonna do after the Air Force but remember this…every man needs to get a little dirt under his fingernails from time to time”.

Over the years, I’ve come to find out that “Neck” was right.

Whenever my wife knows I’m home but can’t find me, she’ll walk around the palatial Foster estate and she’ll find me somewhere raking, mowing or digging in the yard.

Recently, I worked up the soil in a shady area of the backyard and planted some grass seed.

About a week later, I told my bride that the grass had sprouted and she just smiled, not fully grasping what a momentous occasion that was for a “green thumber”.

I can only imagine how a farmer feels upon seeing those first bright green shoots in a freshly-planted corn or soybean field.

I must confess to actually enjoying yard mowing.

My only problem is when my work schedule doesn’t coincide with the weather and grass altitude.

Then it can be more of a chore but normally, walking the yard behind a mower is very therapeutic.

When I worked full-time, I would walk out my job frustrations and challenges behind that lawn mower and sometimes did some of my best problem-solving while cutting the grass.

There is one major difference between men and women.

Women shop.

Men buy.

There’s a difference, right?

I hold true to that with one exception.

Put me in a lawn and garden center, and I can spend way too much time reading stats on fertilizers and such or just smelling those aromas.

I still think the Yankee Candle people are missing the boat by not making a “Fresh Plowed Soil” or “New Mulch” scent.

I’d buy ’em!

So, if you’re a “son or a sister of the soil” like me, you get it.

Keep playing in the dirt and getting a little under your fingernails.

It’s great therapy!

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