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Saturday, February 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Home and garden

In the Garden: Spouses compete for precious garden space

Bill Mulvihill looks harmless enough but he’s secretly plotting to take over his wife’s vegetable garden. (SUSAN MULVIHILL/SPECIAL TO THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Bill Mulvihill looks harmless enough but he’s secretly plotting to take over his wife’s vegetable garden. (SUSAN MULVIHILL/SPECIAL TO THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

I never should have taken my husband, Bill, to hear Ciscoe Morris speak.

Morris, Seattle’s popular garden guru, had come to Spokane to give the presentation, “In Separate Beds: How to Maintain a Beautiful Garden Along with Your Marriage.” He and his wife, Mary – who is also an avid gardener – are well-known for their garden wars over who gets to plant where.

In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have introduced Bill to Ciscoe Morris afterward either. When Morris learned that I pretty much call the shots on what gets grown in the vegetable garden, he took Bill aside and said – tongue-in-cheek – “That will never do. You need to stand up for yourself!” Or at least, I think it was tongue-in-cheek.

Now, in my defense, it seems only fair that – as a garden writer – I should be allowed to grow interesting and new varieties of veggies each year. All of this requires quite a lot of space and planning.

Bill’s encroachment into “my” garden started innocently enough several years ago. As a garlic aficionado, he wanted some space to grow a few heads of garlic. That seemed perfectly harmless. But soon he was telling me that if we’re going to grow garlic, we should also grow basil to make pesto. Before I knew it, he wanted more garlic, more basil, a lot more pesto – and subsequently less room for my intended plantings.

Little did I know more trouble was looming on the horizon.

Bill loves to go fishing. It turns out that two of his fishing buddies are also gardeners. That’s great. Or at least it was until they started talking about growing their legendary pepper crops. Bill was intrigued especially since he loves homemade salsa.

He didn’t want to grow the sweet pepper varieties I grew each summer. Oh no. He wanted to grow hot peppers – lots and lots of them. I agreed to surrender a small plot that mysteriously doubled in size by planting time.

Did I mention that Bill absolutely loves sweet corn? Each year, I’ve been planting a large bed of corn that we happily consume in late summer. But it wasn’t enough: he wanted to have extra corn for freezing and eating during the off-season.

The next thing I knew, he was telling me we should plant three extra beds for an even more bountiful harvest in the summer. I had fully planned to use those three beds for growing broccoli and melons. This little tug-of-war was not in my plans.

So when he recently asked to review my carefully penciled-in garden layout for 2018, alarm bells were going off in my head. Surely he didn’t want even more of my garden? And why is he suddenly taking an interest in gourmet onions? I’ve tried crossing my arms and giving him stern looks, but does he notice? Nope.

We’ve been married forever and, to be honest, I couldn’t ask for a nicer husband. But this business of taking over my garden space is getting to be a bit much. I’m beginning to wonder if two people who both enjoy eating good food can successfully garden side by side. Perhaps marital counseling is in order? And if so, do you think I can find a counselor who will show him the error of his ways?

For a virtual tour of our vegetable garden – and perhaps to weigh in on who gets more garden space – watch this week’s “Everyone Can Grow A Garden” video on my YouTube channel,

Susan Mulvihill is co-author, with Pat Munts, of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook.” Contact her at

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