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I picked green beans today. My recommendation for anyone who wants to plant a garden while having a baby is don’t, but as a second option, plant beans. The dry beans did well and these green beans (Kentucky Wonders) are going strong despite zero maintenance on my part–I’ve already got some in the freezer. Admittedly some were a bit stringy because they’d grown so much, but you can’t have everything.

Along with plenty of beans and a couple of carrots, I pulled a bunch of weeds out of the bean patch. If weed-grass seeds were edible (are they?) I’d be feeling guilty about all the grain I’ve wasted this year. In places it seriously looks like I seeded for a new lawn. There are also squashed tomatoes from the volunteers that grew everywhere, and ruined peppers and rotted bean pods. And oh my gods all the weeds.

What this all adds up to is that I’m going to try lasagna gardening this fall. There’s no way to clean up the weed seeds and there’s no way I’ll weed them all out next year and it’s too late to spread black plastic and bake them; the only way out is to bury them. So I’m going to start begging newspaper from the mothers and start thinking about where to buy mulch–I know the city offers it but there’s a five-cubic-yard minimum and a $25 delivery fee and I don’t know how much that would work out to spread over both gardens. Fall leaves will be coming soon, and Eric desperately needs to mow the lawn, so if I keep this in mind I should be able to amend the soil a little, since I can’t currently reach the actual humus at the bottom of my compost pile and I don’t trust it anyway, after this spring’s bumper crop of weeds.

The beans are still producing, and there are still carrots and beets and parsnips in the ground, and some kale and some herbs and one cauliflower plant that sailed right through spring and summer and is only now perking up. But it’s time for things to wind down anyway, and most of the rest of the garden can be tramped down and buried. I’m not sure whether I should start doing so in patches now, or wait and do everything at once–advice would be appreciated. But either way, I’m going to try to bake myself a brand new garden for next year.

“You save your own seed?” said my cousin Bev, who’s recently discovered the joys of home vegetable gardening and has informed her husband that they’re eventually going to be keeping chickens. “Will you save something right now and show me how?”

I looked, I’m sure, dubious. Bev and her family came to stay with us for a week, and while I knew she wouldn’t blame me for having a jungle instead of a garden, since she’s had a six-week-old herself, I wasn’t sure there was anything out there I could really show her without scaring her off of gardening for life. However, the gardening bug has bit her hard, and I did have a few things out there. “Do you like parsnips?” I said, deciding.

“Yes.”

“Then we’ll go collect some parsnip seeds for you.”

We walked out to the backyard. “Tell me about all the food plants you have,” Bev said, so we talked about my bank of raspberries, about the garlic patch and the carrots and the tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers and dill. I showed her the parsnip plants (all quite brown now, and full of seeds though I’ve been snipping them off for a few different people now) and described how to save the seed–plant them one year, let them winter over and grow, cut the seeds when dry. I told her about online seed trading and winnowing. We looked at my poor tomato plants with tomatoes rotting on the vine, at the green beans that sorely need picking. “Weeds or no, your garden is so productive compared to mine!” she said.

Considering this has been a lousy year for produce, I was pleased, and a bit startled. I’ll be sharing my seeds with her this winter (especially since I hope not to be around to harvest next year’s garden and so won’t be devoting a huge amount of energy to it), and I’m looking forward to hearing more about her plans to reclaim her husband’s rose bed for vegetables next year. Maybe by the time I move out to the West Coast, where they live, she’ll be able to share seeds with me.

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

Marion Zimmer Bradley

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