During the last few weeks after planting our garden, it looked manicured. The tomatoes had grown from small seedlings into bushy plants that required cages to keep them upright. Watching our garden …
During the last few weeks after planting our garden, it looked manicured. The tomatoes had grown from small seedlings into bushy plants that required cages to keep them upright. Watching our garden grow is a favorite summer past time. It’s a simple joy that’s hard to describe to someone who’s never grown a garden. Most of the time there is no better stress reliever. But gardens are bounty or bust.
Several mornings toward the end of May, I’d walk down to the garden. Leaning against the fence with a steaming cup of coffee hooked to my finger, I’d sip while surveying our work. Closing my eyes, I could taste the bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich on toasted bread with mayo. A BLT in summer is like heaven on wheat bread.
One morning I noticed some of the top leaves of my heirloom tomato plant missing. Beneath the plant were tiny green balls of poop. After a few minutes, I found a hornworm as big as my index finger munching on my prized plant. The worm was enjoying an early morning meal of tender tomato leaves. His day went south. With my free hand, I plucked his squirming body from the vine. Squashing his head between my thumb and forefinger, I tossed the remains over the fence into the backyard. The chickens raced toward the tender green prize. The fastest pecked the worm up and was off to enjoy its special breakfast.
The peppers, squash, and tomatoes were doing great until the rain came. After weeks of showers, the plot was a mess. One day when stepping into the tilled soil, the mud sucked the shoes from my feet. I tried for a while to keep the garden maintained, but plants like people can’t survive with too much water. Weeds, on the other hand, seem to thrive in soggy soil. Soon the blossoms fell off the squash before forming fruit, and all our beautiful tomatoes started splitting open on the plant.
The dry days these past few weeks gave us hope that the garden would survive, but that looks doubtful. I’m thinking about plowing it under and planting another crop with bush beans, cucumbers, a few more tomatoes and squash. The Farmer’s Almanac says that now is the time for late gardens.
Gardens for us is more of a hobby. The same was not true for our parents and grandparents who grew up during harder times. Gardens were essential. A bad year in their gardens meant bare pantries and less food on the table during the fall and winter.
I used to help my great-grandmother tend her garden when I was still in grammar school. She’d put on her sun bonnet in the mornings and wander through her garden picking what it offered up that day. By the time we finished gathering each morning, her straw baskets were brimming with vegetables. She’d be huffing and puffing from exertion by the time we carried it all into her kitchen. I asked her once why she worked so hard in her garden. Her answer was simple – “I like to eat.” That pretty well sums up why Jilda and I have a garden each year.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book, “Life Goes On,” is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.