Even If I'm Not Quite Ready

The beginning, in the garden, is all about possibility. 


And questions:


·      Should I go heavy on tomatoes since they always grow the best?

·      Or lean adventurous with new varieties of garlic and onions?

·      Is this the year to finally stop attempting peppers?

·      Is there any point in planting beans when I know they are bunny caviar?

·      What is the appropriate fence height? (Last year my garden was basically a wild-life buffet.)


It helps to ask questions. Questions (and the subsequent answers) come with an air of controlled understanding. But the truth is much of what happens in the garden defies reason and planning. You can time the seeds, plant the right combination, guard the fledgling newbie growths, and…Mother Nature has other ideas. Major hang-on-to-your-sunhat, take-cover kind of plans.


For instance, ten ninety-degree days in a row, which a month after planning (I’ve noticed) can be ideal. But at weeks one or two, is almost always fatal. You can water and water (and water too much) but if scorched earth is how the plants are greeted as they enter even fertile soil, full plant potential is rarely realized.


This year I planted just as a three-day rain torrent hit. I knew the rain was coming but gambled that moisture balanced by subsequent forecasted heat might play out as balance? I had no choice. After a spring of familial milestones, there was no emotional bandwidth or time to be found in early May for thoughtful planting. This year, the edge of unofficial summer, was the best that I could do.


When my superhero neighbor saw me feverishly planting, he asked if we might want to combine fencing efforts to keep the vermin out. I gladly obliged. The result? A big open concept garden that will no longer have an awkward weedy path between our plots. He also offered me his extra pepper plants. How could I say no? Peppers: this is your last chance. 


That’s life, in the garden. Each year is different, new. 


John The Backyard Farmer, circa 2016

You give it your best. You water and prune and tend to the plants as if they’re your children. The children who used to plan “opening day” in the garden and choose the crop with you. The children who would enthusiastically ask, “is this from the garden?” at late summer dinners. The same children who now rarely make it out to the backyard because they have time consuming gardens of their own now. Not actual gardens but real-life endeavors. (Work with me here it’s a metaphor.) 


The central purpose of a garden is of course to grow food, but time spent in the garden serves up other benefits too. Excitement for the season that lies ahead. Trust that Mother Nature is doing her thing. Appreciation for whatever fruits come from all that labor. Acceptance of the inevitable melancholy that will undoubtedly take root when it’s time to let go. (No…I’m not talking about the peppers. But the damn onions are already getting in my eyes!) 


It’s time even if I’m not quite ready. For summer, in the garden.

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