I just read a piece by Sherman Alexie giving his reason for halting a book tour for a memoir about his mother. She has been haunting him in his hotel rooms. In the piece, he says: “I don’t believe in ghosts, but I see them all the time.”
I feel the same way about miracles. We all like to see parallels between nature and our life. In gardens there are good years and bad years for everyone. Yet it is inexplicable to me why my garden, along with my body, was so sick last year and is bursting with life this year.
Oh sure, last year I didn’t tend to my garden the way I usually do. The beds were not as well prepared– no addition of bone meal and blood meal when I turned it over. I didn’t weed as much as I would have liked, but I had friends who helped with the weeding, and that can’t explain everything.
I don’t know why I only got three passable winter squash despite many plants in nourishing raised beds and room to roam. My friend Kate, a professional CSA gardener, said she’d never seen pepper plants have the problem mine did– what could only be called “failure to thrive.” No peppers.
And yes, Steve made really important investments in garden infrastructure this year– a fence that keeps the rabbits from the celery and the carrots (last year no carrots at all!) Last year the rabbits even ate the green beans faster than I could pick them. Landscape fabric along with a good dumping of compost in a large bed for the winter squash.
But I’ve been so enamored by the greenhouse this summer I’ve treated the outdoor garden with some benign neglect. I put out seven tomato seedlings that seemed burned up by the greenhouse heat and told them “good luck.” And they have thrived and are covered with baby tomatoes. They are tipping their little cages and I’m just now doing some pruning and staking.
In my zeal with the propane flame weeder, I singed the last few potato plants in the row, and yet there are not even any potato bugs this year. That is an absolute first for me.
And just when I was feeling frustrated with the cucumber plants outside, which are kind of a mess and seem to only be producing pickling cucumbers, I found this lovely Longfellow and gasped. Yes, I’m back to gasping in the garden.
Steve, who turned 60 last week, was listing out a few “aging” ailments that are interfering with his sleep. Nothing too serious, but nevertheless, I determined not to mention my neuropathy anymore. It’s just a little numbness and doesn’t keep me from anything I want to do. I even went swimming this week to test my feet on hot sand and cold water. It was fine.
I am fine.
And the hard part of gardening is mostly done. The heat of July slows the weeds, and many of the plants produce their own weed protection– like the crazy zucchini that also barely produced last year and need to be harvested every day now. The flame thrower did its job and now I just pick up the hula hoe and get the small stuff.
Even the sweet dumpling squash, which are so picky, and which I planted next to the zucchini and watered well but still were anemic and wilty, have suddenly shot up strong leaves and vine and flowers.
There’s a giant Cinderella pumpkin in the squash patch, more than one. And truly, it feels like a fairy tale. Not that I believe in that stuff.
It’s hard to tell the Lakota from the Red Kuri (Hokkaido) squash– I planted the latter just because Steve spent a year after college in Hokkaido. The cinderella pumpkin is supposed to be a good variety for cooking.