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Two more tomato plants for the garden from the farmer’s market: Black Krim and Yellow Pear, the latter placed at the corner for the best access for small hands and short arms. They’re big beautiful plants, which my seedlings were not, but now that they’re all in the ground the difference is rapidly disappearing. I love it when nature makes up for my mistakes.

Chloe and I went into the garden yesterday to eat a blueberry popsicle. Well, we went outside to eat the popsicle; we went to the garden to “tee if any tawberried are twipe” (she has yet to master Ss). The slugs have been industrious and I haven’t replaced my Sluggo yet, so she’s been disappointed in a couple of ripe berries and was willing to try anything that looked even a little bit red. It turns out that half-ripe garden strawberries are slightly tart but still full of tangy flavor.

The pea trellis is crawling with life, so we tried a few peas, too. She loved these. She likes peas to begin with, and will eat frozen peas and corn for lunch (sometimes heated up, sometimes still frozen), but these were clearly a different experience. She delighted in receiving the two halves of the pod I split open for her–”like a butterfly” and picking out the peas, one by one. She gave me slightly less than half, which I thought was pretty generous.

We’ve got a few corn stalks coming up, which she also wanted to eat until I told her they weren’t the same as the corn on the cob we’ve had a couple of nights in the past couple of weeks. (Can’t she tell the difference? When I point out the seedling that look like a fatter grass, and is quite clearly not a plump cob full of sweet kernels? Toddlers are strange.) The squash and peppers and eggplant are doing okay, for now at least. I’ve got a bunch of what looks like cucumber volunteers coming up among the tomatoes. I don’t know what they’re from. Compost, I guess. What cucumbers did I grow two years ago? Do I want to keep them? I have a hard time pulling them out, when you buy them for $2 each at the local nursery, but they can’t stay and crowd my tomatoes, either. I moved one to a better spot and we’ll see how it grows.

I’ve also got some volunteer dill among the weeds that are slated for later slaughter, and some Hopi Red Dye amaranth. I love that that’s still popping up here and there. Also some tomato volunteers in the side garden, but they’re getting pulled out when I get a chance because as I recall they were awful in previous years.

And the beans and greens and carrots and roots are growing well–as are the weeds, but let’s ignore that for now–and I’m pleased with what I’ve wrought so far, even if I fear for the summer. And staying out late in the garden picking half-ripe strawberries and half-grown peas for my girl was just what I felt that garden is for.

Er, you weren’t expecting anything from me, were you?

The garden has been, um, there. We’ve gotten some tomatoes, most of which went immediately into Chloe’s mouth. I picked two the other day. She pointed and whined, so I handed her one. She ate it like an apple, stem and all. She pointed to the other one. I destemmed that one and handed it over, and she ate it as well. She loves it when dinner includes a fine heirloom tomato, chopped up just for her. She doesn’t especially like the ones you get on sandwiches and burgers in restaurants, so clearly she inherited some good taste.

But yeah. Some tomatoes, some peppers–I finally grew Alma paprikas this year–some herbs, a couple of scallions, a few green beans before the teepee fell over. Three carrots and a solitary beet. A lot of raspberries and parsnips. There are probably still potatoes down there somewhere. But mostly, the garden is a wreck. This gardening-with-a-small-child idea is just not practicable, not for me. And next year is going to be even worse, because I’m doing it all over again next spring. 

So I’m closing down the garden. I’ve been slowly making last harvests and pulling down stakes, and I’m going to move the few herbs and flowers I really want to keep (the cannas I planted way back when have just started coming up; doesn’t that figure?). Then I’m going to pull everything down, cover it with compost and black plastic, and let it sleep for a year. It makes me sad to do, but looking at the weed-encrusted rotting shadow of what a garden should be makes me sad, too, and I’m just plain not going to have the time or energy–if I didn’t with one baby, I certainly won’t with two, and first-trimester symptoms are even worse this time than last.

So next year will be a year without a garden, even if we sell the house, which we’re still trying to do. I’ll grow a few things in pots; I think I can manage that much, and Chloe’s appetite demands at least one or two tomato plants. But otherwise I’m closing down shop.

Which means I’m closing down the blog, too. I may come back to it, if I feel like writing and feel I have something to write about, but I’m also working on other projects, and my energy is wearing thin these days, so for now, I’m putting it into hibernation with the garden. Good gardening, everyone! Plant a seed for me.

I chopped up Persimmon and Amish Paste tomatoes yesterday for ratatouille-of-sorts (no zucchini, but yes pearl couscous) and fed bits to Chloe. She ate them like candy, or like she would eat candy if she were allowed to. She got her onesie all stained with pink and orange. I didn’t like the onesie anyway, so I wasn’t bothered. I don’t think I would have been anyway.

So the tomatoes are producing, yes. Mostly the Amish Pastes and a smallish not-quite-cherry that I don’t know the name of. I don’t remember what I planted where, and I’ve given up trying. I have a couple of Alma Paprika peppers, one yellow and one pink, and some other unidentified peppers that I thought were jalapenos but aren’t, which was disappointing when I wanted to make salsa last night. (However, my mother-in-law can probably be convinced to part with some.) There are no beans yet, but lots of bean flowers. Likewise with the zucchini. (I planted them both late.) There is plentiful basil and sage, and beautiful raspberries and peaches. That’s about it, but I’m okay with it. At least I’m getting something. The days are hot and wet and full of mosquitoes, and the garden is, of course, full of weeds (though I did a quick emergency job on part of it when we had a house showing, and I’m trying to make time this week to go out with either boiling water or Round-Up to get more), and it’s the part of summer I really don’t like. Except for the eating part.

Saturday was not ridiculously hot, and while Eric took Chloe shopping, I changed into my jeans and my long shirt and went out into the garden. “At a minimum, I need to tie up the rest of the tomatoes,” I told Eric, “which should take about ten minutes if I don’t get distracted. But I’ll get distracted.”

I did tie up the tomatoes, discovering that one of the plants has almost no leaves and one has an almost-ripe tomato on it. Which is not unreasonable for July, but is kind of unreasonable for my first time tying them up. Yeah. Anyway, they’re up now, and should be doing better. I cleared away the weeds around them and some ones I missed from last time around the peppers and eggplants. I have one Alma paprika pepper growing now. The eggplant plants are small and spindly, but that’s not surprising considering how many weeds they were covered by. 

I decided that the potato patch is a bust. The plants were mostly gone anyway, and the rest covered with bindweed and this one annoying bush of the neighbor’s that keeps coming back, whether they cut it down or I do. (Of course I only cut the parts on my side of the fence.) The onion sets had done their best in the same conditions, but were clearly too tired to struggle on, so I pulled them up. The leeks had disappeared.  

On the other side of the garden, where those beans were supposed to have grown, is now my de facto potato patch, because I planted some there…last year? No, the year before; last year was garlic. Anyway, they came back, and I didn’t pull them out, and there are enough that I might as well leave them, because I’m not getting anything else out of that entire side of the garden.  

So that’s the vegetable garden: tomatoes doing okay, peppers and eggplants behind, volunteer potatoes, and an insanely happy patch of parsnips, some of which think they’re going to flower but they’re sadly mistaken. There will be no more flowering parsnips in my garden, possibly ever.  

Then I moved onto the herb garden. This, too, was choked with weeds, but only in specific places, and was surprisingly easy to clean up. I pulled out approximately 381 volunteer tomato plants. I left one. I know they’re cherries, which I’m not too excited about, but they freeze really well f0r winter cooking and there’s nothing else in that part of the garden anyway. (There’s a theme emerging here.) The two other denizens of that area are leftover candy onions from last year that have flowered: 

 

 And wild onions that Mom transplanted there in April from the driveway and have also flowered: 

 

I’m not too keen on wild onion–they’re kind of tough–but they do grow easily and the look of the seed head may be enough to convince me that they’re worth keeping. How cool is that? They’re Muppet onions!  

The peas are gone; the lettuce is gone; the rocket is gone (well, not gone, but flush with seed pods and intensely bitter). The lemon sorrel, surprisingly, is still doing okay. Maybe it grew too slowly and was choked down by the mass of everything else. It’s now almost all that’s left in the greens bed, that and the kale and a few brassicas.  

On the good side, everything looks lovely now that the weeds are gone (except the ones in the path, and I’m starting to think that it’s Round-Up time for them because they’re the low-lying ones that are impossible to grab in impacted dirt, and that’s the side near the house so I don’t have food plants over there anyway, and…you get my drift). And the new beans and zucchini and basil are doing well. And the sage is very, very happy.  

I put some peas in my pocket for saving for seed–because it never hurts–and cut a bunch of oregano to dry, and laid it on my garden bag. I stood up, and contemplated the raspberries that I thought I had cut down last year. 

Then Eric tapped on the window and indicated that Chloe needed feeding, so I went in. She was kind of scared of me, and I figured it might be because I stank, so I showered and then fed her (she’d had a snack in the meantime but was still much happier with me when I smelled like Mommy and not so much like Dirty Tomato-Streaked Sweat) and we worked on dinner and then it started storming, and I didn’t remember until this morning that my bag was still out there. It’s on the porch now, drying. The oregano should be fine. I don’t know about the seeds that were tucked into the pockets. Chalk up one more casualty to my Weed Once a Year policy. 

So I’ve finally, after a couple of attempts, got some green beans growing, in the herb garden. The vegetable garden is just doing terribly this year. Is it the rabbits again? I had thought they were gone after their warren was destroyed thanks to the city. (No, seriously. Thanks!) Maybe it’s the bugs, or the heat, or the neglect. Whatever it is, a single Trionfo Violetto came up in the vegetable garden this year. When I finally faced this fact, I moved into the herb garden, which the rabbits don’t seem to bother even though it’s not fenced in as the vegetable garden is. Maybe I’m trying too hard.

Nevertheless, the beans are finally going, but slow. My supervisor at work has offered me the leftovers from his garden, which is awesome, but not the same as having my own. (It’s surprising how many of my coworkers get the daily paper. Now everyone knows (a) I’m a vegetable gardener and (b) I have the cutest baby possible. Tahree, the reporter who wrote the article, says that a bunch of people have gotten in touch with her about being in the series in the last couple of days. She attributes it to the cuteness of my baby. I think that’s fair.) Especially since I haven’t gotten any dry beans planted this year. Except, that is, for two.

Last year I had a sort of monolith in the garden, each side a different bean. I had Trionfo Violetto and Hidatsa Shield Figure and Cherokee Trail of Tears (very thick-skinned, by the by, or at least those ones were) and Italian Rose. The Italian Roses are bush shelling beans, and I never actually ate any, but I found a few for seed and brought them inside with the Hidatsas and Cherokees. Then I didn’t have any place to put them, and was too lazy to get out my seed container, so I left them on the counter. A few were swept up when I cleaned, a few were lost, and I was left with two, which I had no place for.

So one day, clearing off the counter (finally), I tossed them into the little four-inch pot on the windowsill where the Mother of Millions babies are. Later, I watered. The beans sprouted. And grew. And kept growing, because why not? It’s a sunny window with space to climb (though I actually broke off the tips after they started doubling up and looking scraggly) and adequate water. They hooked over the screen latch and the curtains. They flowered. And now? Small beans are growing on my windowsill.

This is probably the only way I was ever going to taste a shelling bean this year. If these plants keep going, this may be the greatest discovery since basil. Fresh beans! On the windowsill! In a tiny pot! With no mosquitos or 97 degree heat involved! I may have to do this every year.

Okay, it’s not sickness that’s keeping me from posting, it’s lack of time. For the past two weeks I’ve been working on a baby quilt for a shower on Sunday (it looks like I’m going to make it, too, if nothing serious comes up to prevent me from working on it at night), plus the usual routine, plus getting ready to sell the house. Bah. The garden itself isn’t getting neglected…or not extremely…just the posting.

So, an update. The tomatoes and peppers and eggplant and leeks are in the garden. The melons and squash and cucumbers are not. The basil and parsley and celery and chamomile and cilantro and savory are in the herb garden. The parsley disappeared the day after I planted it, so completely that I wondered if I had really planted it or just thought I did. But it was right by the chamomile and the chamomile’s still there. What would make parsley disappear? I don’t know. But I need to replant it. I also need to replant carrots; it’s getting awfully late but there are only two or three in what is now the parsnip bed, and carrots are important. And plant beans and corn. And weed, always weed.

I’ve also got a lot of empty space where I got rid of the lemon balm and wormwood (because the lemon balm drops baby balms all over the garden, and the wormwood exploded into five-foot-tall behemoths for flowering, which is a shame since it was so pretty and tame the first year). I think it’s time to take a trip to a nursery for some plants to fill in.

And last night a photographer from the Toledo Blade came by to take a picture of Chloe and me in the garden. I’m going to be part of a series on local gardeners, and I’m representing the “mom with young children” gardener demographic, so Chloe was my prop. Or maybe I was hers. She hasn’t been particularly cooperative with my camera, but she loved the photographer’s and was very cooperative, and of course extremely cute.

After the photographer left I went back to the garden to get some things for my first garden food of the year. This year it was komatsuna and chives. Chloe likes chives, it turns out. Definitely my daughter. I used them both in a noodle stirfry. The komatsuna is indeed a nice spinach replacement, except for being a favorite of the bugs, judging by their state when I picked them. I planted them where the kale is as a fill-in until the kale gets bigger, and that’s starting to happen, so they won’t last long in any case. If the bugs leave me enough they’ll not last long because I’ll eat them up.

Two white eggplant. One green bell pepper, three red Giant Marconi (I think) peppers. Lots of tomatoes, some deep red, some the ones that Dad didn’t pick because he thought they weren’t ripe yet: Persimmon and Tiger-Like and a black one and one with yellow shoulders  (I do have them written down, somewhere). Dried Mitla Black bean husks hiding small, svelte beans. Purple Trionfo Violetto beans, swollen with ripe seeds because I didn’t ask anyone to pick them. I’m leaving them to become seed because I have Kentucky Wonders growing elsewhere, on a later schedule. Even a neglected garden is a rainbow in August.

Nine cucumbers. Four of them are too big to be any good. This is what happens when you don’t go into the garden for a week, of course. Ah well. We’re going to slice up a couple of them today for dinner and maybe try making a test batch of sweet relish with the others.

There are a couple of baby tomatoes out there, and some purple Black Mitla bean flowers, and plenty of spring-green Inferno peppers, and bees on the leek flowers. I can still see the carrots between the weeds in the carrot patch. (I’m going to try weeding it tomorrow. Today we have to make macaroni salad and go buy corn and pectin and bring everything plus a bag of potatoes and those cucumbers over to my mother-in-law’s.) It’s not so bad out there, really. And hey, even if it is, I’ve got cucumbers to eat, the freshest it’s possible to get them, and that’s a happy thing.

Happy Independence Day!

I watered today. This is rather remarkable, since I pretty much never water except to water in a new plant. I like to think it’s my tough-love style of gardening, but it’s actually simple laziness.

However, I had looked at the weather forecast for the week (all dry), and thought about it as I was planting my spindly, fragile seedlings over the weekend, and decided I would water today, and again Thursday unless Friday’s forecast rain moved up instead of back. Next weekend we’ll be in Chicago for our anniversary/last-trip-before-the-baby-comes trip and it’s supposed to be nice except for Friday, and even I can’t kid myself that eight days without water is going to do anything to small seedlings but kill them.

Watering, it turns out, isn’t that bad, as long as you wear proper footwear. I didn’t–I had socks and sandals on–but I was aware they were going to get wet and muddy and didn’t worry about it. I noticed that the French Fingerlings put on a spurt of growth in the last few days. I noticed that the tomatoes are still purple underneath. I noticed that the lettuce and bok choi seedlings are doing great. I noticed that the cumin seems to have disappeared already. Did I plant seeds along with the seedlings? I can’t remember. I think I’d better plant some.

I also planted some Mitla Black tepary beans around the tomato stakes, same as I did last year. And I nearly stepped on an adolescent robin; while I was in the herb garden the nest seemed to overflow with birds and suddenly one dropped right near me; I stepped instinctively away but it moved in the same direction and almost got crushed. But didn’t. A mature robin on the fencestarted chirping, rather angrily, it seemed, and I said, “I didn’t do it!” and moved away, and the younger bird hopped around and seemed fine. I almost wanted to dig up some worms for it.

“What are these new things?” Eric said as he came in and his eyes fell on the little gathering on the counter.

“Potato berries. Well, potato fruits. They’re poisonous,” I added unnecessarily as he picked them up and inspected them. “I found them lying on the ground in the potato patch. Along with that potato on the top of the soil. I really need to harvest some potatoes.”

The other thing in the pile was the first tomatillo out of the garden, otherwise known as the first volunteer for salsa verde. (“Aren’t you tired of salsa yet?” “Never!”) The pears are falling down and turning to mush, the corn is drying in place, the squash have all yielded to the slimy embrace of the squash borer (except the Stella Blue Hokkaido, which has one solitary fruit hanging from a corn plant because I let it do as it pleased and what it pleased was evidently to climb). And I am collecting seeds and starting to think about fall. But the tomatillo is just getting started.

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

Marion Zimmer Bradley

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