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I think the blog needs a name change, to “Weeded.” Or rather, “Unweeded.” Did I actually do weeding last year? I can’t remember, but I don’t think I let things get this out of hand. Of course, things didn’t start this out of hand last year either. I hope I’ll get a few carrots from between the clover and pigweed and grass. I hope I’ll get a few heads of garlic, too. (Some scapes have finally appeared–yay!–so at least I shouldn’t have too terribly long to wait until I can find out.)

I didn’t actually tie up the tomatoes when I said I would; I was too indolent and hot, and then it rained and so on. The usual. Also when I get home these days I change into shorts and it’s annoying to have to change into long pants to go out into the garden to guard against mosquitos, especially since neither of the two pairs of maternity jeans I have particularly like to stay up, even at this late stage, and nothing thinner will keep out the mosquitoes. So I went out to do it today. Idiotically, I didn’t change into jeans. “It’s not very late,” I reasoned, “so maybe they won’t be out very much. I’ll only go out long enough to tie up the tomatoes and come back before I get so hot that they can find me easily.” Idiot.

I should probably learn my lesson about tying up tomatoes and just lay out the cash for some halfway decent cages. At the least, I should have tied them up earlier, before they and the parsnips blew up. My clump of parsnips in bloom is  a gargantuan joy, but it’s now impinging on the tomatoes and the strawberries and has thrown pollen everywhere. You can get some idea from this picture, but it was taken two weeks ago and it’s grown as much as the weeds in the intervening time:

6-13 vegetable garden with parsnip

So the tomatoes are all big and sprawling, and the parsnip branches are bending over them, and the beans I planted by the tomato stakes have shot upward, and the weeds are tickling my calves. I started out with the tying and realized that I wasn’t going to have enough twine to finish the job. I couldn’t stop myself from pulling weeds, especially the ones in the strawberry bed which I weeded clean not long ago, even though it was clearly hopeless, which increased my time. I couldn’t step across the raised bed and going around meant I had to take extra time to pull the twine tight. The tomatoes are used to being on the ground now and I had to tug them upright. I was on my second row when I tugged too hard and heard a crack. I wailed, “No!” but it was too late; I had snapped off most of a tomato plant. Then when I faced this fact and pulled at the snapped-off top I ripped the rest of the plant out of the ground, losing any possibility of getting the plant back on its proverbial feet later in the season. I suck so much.

And the mosquitos weren’t leaving me alone at all, of course. After tossing the tomato plant in the compost bin (which is surrounded by tomato volunteers; I suppose I’ve got replacements for the one I pulled, whichever it was–I have them written down but I don’t care enough to look it up) I tied until I ran out of twine and went inside. I did pick four fat cucumbers before I went, so it wasn’t a total loss.

I’m dangerously close to giving up for the season, though. How am I ever going to keep up with the weeds? Are my tomatoes going to be any good if I can’t keep them off the ground? Is my pregnancy-induced immunosuppression causing my numerous mosquito bites to become big pancakey welts or have the mosquitos actually gotten more toxic? Is it reasonable to pretend I don’t have gardens anymore–or at least do no more than harvest whatever survives–and kill everything in the  fall and put down grass?

I weeded the melon patch yesterday. Man, did it need it. I certainly didn’t pull all the weeds out, but I pulled most and gave the rest a haircut, and as a result was actually able to see some dirt. None of the cantaloupe seeds I planted germinated, and the watermelon ones that did germinate seem to have disappeared, but the plants that I bought are going strong, especially the muskmelon.

After the weeding I sank a few short stakes in the ground and planted Kentucky Wonder beans. I remembered too late that I’d intended to put the Hutterites there, since I don’t want to have to step on melon vines while harvesting green beans. Oh well. I’ll live. Maybe the beans will, too.  By the time they were in I was warm enough that the mosquitos had found me, so I left without watering. Tomorrow, I’ll water and also tie up the tomatoes, which desperately need it.

The Giant Marconi growing is so tall it’s touched the ground, which is probably not good for it. I don’t remember getting peppers this early before–but then, I didn’t do a lot of purchased pepper plants before. I could like this whole early-start thing. Maybe eventually I’ll get good enough at seed-starting to make it happen myself.

We had our first real garden produce of the year last night: lettuce and our first cucumber in a big salad with carrots and red cabbage and spinach from the farmer’s market. Actually, I had a small spinach salad from the garden before the spinach bolted, come to think of it, but it wasn’t a shared meal because there wasn’t enough of it (and it was a marinated salad, so Eric wouldn’t have eaten it anyway). “That’s not bad,” Eric said when I offered him a slice of cucumber. “That’s actually a really good cucumber,” he said later at dinner, picking more out of the salad bowl. There are more tiny cucumbers on the vine, so we’ll repeat this next week, especially since the lettuce is just barely starting to elongate in the first signs of bolting.

I intended to do a decent amount of work in the garden this weekend, but the heat and my back defeated me. I did do a little urgent weeding, and helped a cucumber plant and a couple of beans find their way back to the (hopelessly inadequate, I now realize) supports I had put up for them, and listened to my neighbor talk about her poor mimosa tree and how terrible it made the yard look while I stood among my crabgrass and lamb’s-quarters and those strange daisy-like weeds that I haven’t seen before this year. And I picked strawberries, which are less sweet but more flavorful than the quart I bought at the farmer’s market Saturday.

“Are you still doing that?!” Mom exclaimed when I told her on the phone I’d been in the garden. “You know you don’t have to have a garden this year.” Unfortunately, it’s too late. I don’t agree with her that I shouldn’t be exercising, but I admit the stooping and sweating of gardening is not really optimal at this point. However, I’ve got plants in the ground now, with flowers and the promise of fruits; and the taste of that cucumber charmed me as well. I know the weeds will win this year, but I’m still going to have to put up a fight.

You would think that, having plants in my garden that are at that exciting stage between seedling and producing adult, I would visit the garden even if I didn’t work in it. Apparently not. It’s not exactly that I feel guilty about not weeding (though I do); I just haven’t had the urge to be outside much. I trust this will pass somewhat once I become a fruit-producing adult myself.

I did go into the garden today, though, because it had been a while since I’d gathered those strawberries and I thought there might be a few more. And there were. It’s kind of nice having a producing strawberry bed after two years of not being able to get anything from them; my expectations are low. As it is, I got about a cup of small, sweet, beautiful strawberries, and felt blessed.

I also noted that the tomatoes are in need of tying up, and of course that the weeds are in need of killing; and that my zucchini plant is thriving and the peppers are doing well for themselves. I took these pictures a few days ago, but check it out: I really do have a garden out there.

After a week of on and off rain, I finally got out in the garden to do a little work. Only a little, because it looks like rain again and we’re making lemon ice cream and bending down is no longer a good idea, but I did pick the first non-holey strawberries from the garden (I think what helped is the spiders that have taken up residence in the plants; the stems are full of webs. But the strawberries are red and whole so I’m not complaining), take some pictures, gently guide the cucumbers up instead of out, and pull out the worst of the weeds in the garlic patch.

There’s a problem with the garlic weeds, though. Some of them are leftover potatoes from last year. I really liked growing my own potatoes last year and my patch this year is small, so I’m conflicted about pulling these out. Plus, they’re tubers; aren’t they going to be the most pernicious weeds ever? Some of them aren’t particularly close to the actual garlic (and I planted the garlic more widely than I could have, and some of them didn’t come up), so I’m leaving them. The ones that are close, though, are problematic. Which do I love more, potatoes or garlic, and is it possible to dig up the one to let the other grow, or do I simply have to tell myself “IT’S A WEED” and yank?

There’s a spot in the vegetable garden that’s always bugged me (even ignoring the rabbit warren/weed invasion issues). It’s on the east side of the Asian pear, the bit between the tree, the raised bed, and the compost box. It’s too crowded to be a good place to grow vegetables but it’s too big just to be a pathway. The neighbor mentioned a while ago that the corner garden she put in next to the fence is a butterfly garden, and it struck me that that would be an excellent thing to do with this space: get rid of the weeds and general detritus left from using it as the auxiliary compost pile, maybe do some lasagna garden-type layering, plant some nice bushy beneficial-insect-attracting flowers, and mulch the heck out of it. Of course with her butterfly garden just on the other side of the fence it’s really not going to be all that much more beneficial, but I don’t see why that should stop me.

The auxiliary compost pile actually left a nice amount of straw-type detritus that will do as beginning mulch. It also left an anise hyssop, which is nice and tall and just budding out, in exactly the right place. Today (after planting more insurance basil, plus the sunflowers and the Red Warty Thing in the corner with crossed fingers) I pushed it aside, dug or pulled out the weeds, moved the volunteer Hopi Red Dye amaranth that showed up in front of the cucumbers beside the anise hyssop, and put the detritus back. The bugs and hunger were starting to bother me, so I didn’t do more, but I have plans, plans that involve some of the flowers and Red Leaf basil on my porch (why did the Red Leaf come up when the stuff I actually like to eat didn’t?) and two bags of mulch that were leftover from aborted projects in the fall. Maybe even plans that involve getting some bricks or stones to ring it with and delineate the bed from the path, which I know would be a really, really good idea. I never thought I’d enjoy building an entirely ornamental bed this much. I wonder if it’s because of its connection to the vegetables, or my horizons are simply expanding.

Yesterday I dug up the grass patch. It was not a congenial task. It also irked me to notice that the neighbors put up a lattice in place of the fence that used to be between our yards, and (this is the irksome part) tossed the sawed-off ends into my yard. I know my garden is not as well-kept-up as it should be, but it cannot reasonably be mistaken for a junkyard. But I did find a sunflower volunteer, unexpectedly tall, hanging around near the Asian pear, which made me quite happy, even though it meant I had to carefully scrape away the weeds around it. I desperately need to weed, especially the garlic patch, but the mosquitos thronged and I grew irritated and went inside.

I noticed on the way that there are actually two tiny peaches on the peach tree. I considered getting some netting to cover them and protect them from squirrels and bugs–we’d considered it last year but figured it was too much work. But I’m not sure what would work against bugs, so it might be futile. I should probably just appreciate the fact that they survived the freeze and give them up to nature.

Inside, I realized that I really needed to throw away the barley salad I made the other day. This made me sad, since I used my Mitla Black tepary beans from last year to make it, plus some frozen homegrown corn and herbs; but the barley is just too…well…mucilaginous. However, I went out and picked all the rocket leaves to make pesto with (more on that once I get some parmesan), so at least I’ll have something homegrown in the fridge.

The herb garden is on the side of the house, and the bed closest to the house is mostly hostas and mulch because it’s an old house and I didn’t want to plant anything edible there, since it most likely had lead paint sometime in the past. As part of my plan of nonedibility, I put a little stone plaque that my sister-in-law gave me two Christmases ago there.

This year, I decided that I was going to put in some flowers that I didn’t have space or inclination to put anywhere else–specifically, red flax, marigolds, and four o’clocks. So I started pushing the mulch back, and around the plaque I noticed there were a lot of ants. I dug a little and noticed that there were some white things that looked a lot like larvae or pupae. I pushed the plaque out of the way, and found this:

5-17 ant nest

That’s a full-on ant nest. You can see the white masses of juveniles, with ants scrambling everywhere once their roof was removed. I even saw what was either a large winged ant or a small and badly lost fly come stumbling out of one of the tunnels.

The ants killed my cabbage plants last year by tunneling around their roots, plus I didn’t like how close to the house this was and let’s face it, I have major destructive impulses. Otherwise I wouldn’t be a gardener. (Discuss.)  So I dug this nest up as much as I could and mixed up the dirt and crushed all the pupae I could see. I left it a mostly-destroyed shambles, exposed to the air, its denizens dead or wildly disordered. I am a bad, bad person. When I noticed a few dark ants and white lumps in the dirt around the new bean sprouts yesterday I felt little remorse, though I do recognize that I may be experiencing the ant version of sweet revenge if none of my beans make it to maturity this year.

Flowers and even fruit are only the beginning. In the seed lies the life and the future.

Marion Zimmer Bradley

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