Despite what she’d tell you, my wife has a bit of a green thumb. Every day at 5:05 p.m., you’ll find her in her rubber boots, standing at the raised garden bed in our back yard, pruning and arranging the massive leaves of her garden.

Since moving into our house a few years ago, we’ve accumulated quite a few indoor plants – the fiddle-leaf fig by our door, the palm and monstera under the windows in the dining room. She’s always turning or re-potting them, giving them a snack of fish emulsion. Last year, she cultivated a couple of herb beds that turned out spectacularly.

Back in the early spring, she found a kit online for a raised garden bed for $600, which I replicated (more or less) for under $200, dirt and all. She planted squash, cucumbers, bell peppers, okra, radishes and, of course, tomatoes.

Within days of planting seeds, we saw tips of green sprout up. Every day, we checked the progress, as the squash vines grew to grasp the chicken wire boundaries of the bed, and the tomato plants crept up the trellis, yielding a few fat, low-hanging tomatoes. We learned to leave the wheel bugs and robber flies alone.

Everything went according to plan, for a while.

Then our squash plant started dropping its soft blossoms, which, it turns out, can be fried and dipped in ranch dressing for a nice snack. Some quick research revealed that this meant the squash blossoms weren’t getting pollinated, so we took measures to attract bees to the bed. We’ve got a few squash coming along nicely now.

Our okra and radishes didn’t exactly turn out, we think because the leaves of the taller plants over-shaded them. But we still had high spirits.

Until the army worms came.

Army worms hatch from the eggs of a moth, and before we could detect them, they ravaged our tomato plants. My wife spent days turning leaves over and snipping army worms in half with her gardening sheers. But they just keep coming.

Gardening isn’t guaranteed. That’s what’s so interesting about it. You can take steps to increase the likelihood of a bountiful outcome, but there’s only so much you can control. Your daily tending is done somewhat in faith. When you finally bite into a home-grown tomato sandwich, it’s all the sweeter for it.

RILEY MANNING is a fiction writer, former religion reporter for the Daily Journal, and a copywriter at Mabus Agency. Readers can contact him at

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