Jun 2, 2007
I'm A Dirty, Dirty Boy
I've been gardening most all the morning, it seems, and it's been heavenly.
The rainfall has dampened the ground just enough that when I ran the tiller this morning, a few passes around each row the ground crumbled into small, light brown bits, just right for raking up onto existing rows. Weeds went flying, incautious bits of tomato and squash plants became compost, and the worms headed for deep ground. Papa was in town, and he had his gardening hat on.
(Honestly, between me and you it's my all-purpose, beat-to-hell straw fedora but I'm not gonna tell them any different.)
So, a fair turn behind the tiller and a lot of time spent being a rake and the rows are much improved. Less weeds, for one thing, more height, and some fresh mulch pulled up from below and shifted around, spreading the wealth. The beets have all been harvested so their row is ready for Beets Round Two, and the Kandy Corn varietal of corn was, no surprise, a complete and utter failure. I'm not sure WHAT it is about us and corn but two years worth of attempts have been frustrated by worms, blight, wind, and most anything that can make corn plants fail. I'm not a big believer in chemical additives, so that probably is hindering me pretty bad, too. So last night the stunted and dwarfed corn went onto the compost heap along with the odds and ends of weeds and some of the beets that hadn't fared well.
I love how each year I learn something different, each few weeks watching and tending brings new knowledge. Artichokes, a food I have no desire to eat but the wife loves, cannot abide anything but the fullest of sun, and standing water is utterly anathema. Squash, on the other hand, will thrive most anywhere bright. And Mosaic hates me and my beans with a passion. Every time I turn around there's another plant wilting and crinkling under it's baleful attack. And tomatoes? Sheesh. I can grow tomatoes seven feet tall and ten wide but it'll be next year's crop before I venture into the hardware store to put into practice part of Scott's suggestion for impervious tomatoe cages. I think I'm gonna skip the tires, though, for fear my neighbors will KNOW I'm a redneck. I don't like tomatoes THAT much, no matter HOW good they are on toast with some lettuce and mayo.
The okra is finally showing some interest, too. They've been profoundly slow growing this year, and were slowed even further by a vicious bug attack early in their little lives, but I think they've rallied nicely, and soon will be six feet tall and bristling with long spear points. The acorn squash are growing well, too, putting on quite a profusion of yellow trumpet flowers and even a few pecan-sized green lumps that will soon become fruit.
And The Lone Zucchini is doing beautifully, although it's one sexy green fruit was savaged by some insect or other. We bought, you see, a tray of twelve squash (six smooth, six warty, don't ask me for the brand names) and a tray of six zucchini. Well, seems someone at the nursery was having us all on, because there was ONE zucchini and seventeen squash. Oh, very droll, my unknown factory worker. I'm thinking about letting the canteloupe duke it out with it's next-door neighbor the squash row, since we've got so bloody many squash.
The newest and strangest addition this year is the cucuzzi, a heritage gourd/squash of some sort that the wife wanted to try. Thus far it's going great guns, covering itself in lovely big white trumpet flowers and a few long hairy fruits that look like XXL string beans. I'm wondering, truth be told, if this is going to be like my father's foray many decades ago into cushaw, giant green and white striped gourds with orange meat that made for some surprisingly good fruit spread. It seemed like a marvelous idea at the time for my father the gardener, but when half the garden was aswamp with huge green leaves and vines as thick as your wrist, each bearing multiples of fruit big enough to be Pod People it got kind of scary. I was afraid to step foot in the garden myself, for fear of being replaced by a green and white striped replica of myself.
So tell me, what is it about gardening that gets to us? What is it that drives so many of us to stand in the dirt sweating, hoeing and tending, tossing weeds over our shoulders, praying that the cutworms don't find us? Is it some trigger in our Inner Primates that makes us long to hunker in the dirt in front of a squash and pluck out those yellow gems? Or is it just the joy of watching things as tiny as beet seeds turn into bulbous, ruby fruits with gorgeous green sprays of leaves above?
So tell me--what makes your garden grow?