July 22, 2024

Glamorous gardening

“It sounds like you need a hobby.”

Those were the words of wisdom from a coworker upon hearing that my version of ~*adulthood*~ entails of working 8-5, then going home to lie in bed, eat dinner in bed and binge watching The O.C. while taking tweet breaks.

A hobby? What’s that? Like exercising? * gasp *


Sorry, that was from my elbow smashing against the keyboard in a hurry to cover my mouth before I gag and vomit from the thought of using my free time to exercise.

“Well, what are your passions?” my coworker asked.

I didn’t have a response. Not because I don’t have passions, but mainly because I didn’t feel comfortable admitting that my passions include reciting entire Friends episodes from memory, looking at pictures of Joe Biden eating ice cream, forgetting to breathe when browsing Kate Spade 75% off surprise sales, creeping on people’s favorites (yes, I still call them that) on Twitter or blasting Macy Gray’s “I Try” on repeat in my car. Then I had a miraculous thought.


I love salsa. It is the #1 condiment. Even better than ranch dressing. Fight me. If I run out of bananas, my response is, oh well. If I run out of toilet paper, my thought is, at least I have paper towels. But if I run out of salsa, you can find me in aisle three at Hy-Vee at 3:00 a.m. reaching down for the largest container of salsa they have, which will get me by for about two weeks. I’ll probably have some sort of salsa fountain at my wedding that guests can dip chips in. I knew I had found someone really special when I met a boy who would scoop salsa on a chip and feed it to me while I painted my nails.

So when I discovered a garden behind the warehouse at work where employees can have their own garden plot, I knew it was destiny. Plus, it seemed fitting that I’d have a hobby that would mesh well with my new suburban housewife lifestyle. That’s right, my new hobby would be gardening.

Last May I stocked up on seeds and planted my first garden. It was a success. As I gear up for this year’s gardening season, I took some time to reflect on what I learned and gained from last summer’s experience.

Dana Melcher | The Tailgate Society

Self Control
When a coworker said my garden looked janky, I considered serving their plot a big ol’ serving of Round-Up for lunch. But I didn’t. I also practiced the act of self control by not eating the entire Tupperware container of salsa, no matter how desperately I wanted to.

What I learned: self control. What I did not learn: weed control. Dana Melcher | The Tailgate Society

For the first time in my life, I understood the love people have for their dogs, cats and children because that’s how I felt about my plants. I’d show off photos of my cute roma tomatoes to anyone who would look. I knew I had reached a special point in my life when I met up with a high school friend at a football game and we exchanged photos and garden stories like they were our own children. “Wow, your onions sure have shot right up!” “Your tomatoes have matured since the last time I saw them!” “Yes, my cucumber plant has been growing like a weed!”

Dana Melcher | The Tailgate Society

I was able to buy my coworkers’ love with salsa and bacon-wrapped jalapeños poppers. I’ll never forget the day someone told me, “your onions look magnificent.” It was one of the best compliments I had ever received. My response was, “They just need lots of water. Drown those bad boys.” Do onions actually need a lot of water? I have no idea. I just know that Stanley Yelnats and Zero found a bunch of delicious onions by a stream in Holes, so it seemed legit.

Making salsa takes blood, sweat and tears. Blood from cutting your thumb, sweat from getting jalapeño oil all over yourself and thinking it washed off your hands in the shower and realizing it did not when you rub your eyes the next morning, and tears from chopping onions. Pro tip: wear goggles.

I would tend to the garden during my lunch break, and come back into the office with my flowered sundress covered in mud and sweat, very similar to how the young Dana Melcher looked after recess. Gardening allowed me to go back to my kindergarten roots. Or kinderGARDEN roots, I should say.

Dana Melcher | The Tailgate Society

Through many trials and errors, I learned that gardening and glamour can go hand-in-hand with a little bit of practicality. Example 1: gardening in high wedges instead of flats will prevent you from having to reach your bare feet into the sink at work to wash off all the mud that has accumulated on your feet. Example 2: wearing a dark burgundy nail polish instead of a light peach will camouflage any dirt that got under your nails while pulling weeds.

This is not all of the knowledge I gained. I learned that some weeds do look like marijuana plants, but they probably aren’t and you should definitely not alert HR about it. I learned that “markers” are used to identify the plants and that putting Crayola washable markers in the ground will not affect the outcome of the plants at all. Most importantly, I learned that it is completely acceptable to eat salsa for breakfast every single morning throughout the entire month of August.

Dana Melcher | The Tailgate Society

Yes, I finally found myself a hobby, but no worries, I still go home and lie in bed after work. Except now, while in bed, I practice the skill of not spilling homemade salsa all over my white sheets. I not only gained a hobby, but a talent as well.

Dana Melcher | The Tailgate Society

Dana’s salsa recipe

6 roma tomatoes, chopped

2 green onions, chopped

1 tablespoon of chopped fresh cilantro

1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped (add some of the seeds for more spice)

1 tablespoon lime juice

½ teaspoon salt

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Dana Melcher 13 Articles
Former Staff Writer

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