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The first ripe tomato went into a sandwich a few days ago. I meant to go out and look for more today, especially since we’re having tacos tomorrow, but vacuuming and playing with Chloe and pondering frosting somehow took the day away from me. (Chloe’s birthday party is next Saturday, and I’m making a cake. The cake part is settled, but I’ve never decorated a cake before, and I don’t like buttercream but Eric doesn’t like whipped frosting. What to do?)

My weed escapade has kept the side garden relatively nice-looking, though the poor lemon sorrel is baking now that it’s not shaded from the heat by all the other overgrown plants and weeds. I was afraid of that. I need to get some mulch. The reporter who wrote the Blade piece on my garden offered me some, but I totally forgot to go and fetch it, and since she’s now invited me over three times and I haven’t gone, I kind of feel like I’ve flubbed my chance. We’re now on our third summer of a tight budget because of Eric being out of work, so I’m not overly eager to buy mulch, but I never am, and the poor garden needs it.

I am contemplating what to plant in the bare patches. More zucchini? Carrots, for the fall? Lettuce? It ought to be something. Of course, it should be something very low-maintenance.

On the plus side, the peaches on the tree are just about ripe. On the minus side, I didn’t remove nearly enough of them, so they’re all apricot-sized instead of peach-sized. Now I know how many is too many for a tree that size to support. How big a peach would a tree with just one peach on it grow? Unfortunately I don’t think anyone who owns a peach tree and likes peaches would be willing to find out.


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.

As someone at work said today, I’m famous!

Check it out.

(Actually, it’s Chloe who’s famous. She’s the reason I got into the feature.)

Guess what I have in my garden? Tomatoes! Not that this should be a surprise, since I planted them and all. But since I’ve barely been back to check on them, I was kind of surprised when I went back to tie them up–yes, for the first time, in July–and found them not only thriving but with lots of green globes attached. Let me tell you, I would never accept a nomination for Mother Nature. The incumbent does great, and I…I would not.

I’d promised to be back there only long enough to tie up my tomatoes, on account of we were headed for AAA to pick up Eric’s car before they closed and then go to dinner. But when I got back there and saw the result of my neglect, all thoughts of dinner went out the window. Now that I’ve had experience in motherhood, I think I can say that gardening is a lot like it. Specifically, full of guilt. I feel bad when I’m not with Chloe and I feel bad when I’m with her for the things I’m not doing. I feel bad for neglecting my garden and I feel bad for the time I spend on it because it’s time Eric has to spend watching Chloe, and now that he’s home for the summer and watching her full-time he doesn’t get much alone time and I know he’d like me to provide some. But she can’t go back with me in the jungle. There are parsnips growing wild everywhere, and tomatoes trailing on the ground–not anymore, or at least not some;  I only tied up a few before Eric dragged me away because I was busy clearing away the weeds from the poor half-smothered peppers and eggplants, yanking out flowering thistles and threatening-looking pokeweed, swearing roundly at the bindweed and trying to calculate whether the black plastic sheeting I got is going to cover everything. The garden needs to be put down for  the summer, at least the part that keeps killing the plants I put into it. In the fall when the weeds are dead, I’ll figure things out.

I say this all the time. I do keep meaning to get my act together. But Chloe and Eric come first, and since I know I can get at least some food out of a garden mostly neglected, un-neglecting the garden is unfortunately low on my list. But I do need to do some work. Eric can watch Chloe a little more. And the beans and zucchini I planted in the herb garden are actually coming up, unlike everything I put in the vegetable garden, so I’ve got poles to transfer and greens to pull before they seed and oregano to harvest. Eventually I’ll figure out a balance between my garden and the rest of my life. Until then, I’ll keep making plans and seeing how spectacularly I fail at them. I’ve got tomatoes, anyway.

Chloe and I have been eating raspberries off the bush for several days now. They’re planted along the little fence between the back door and the garage, some red, some golden. The golden ones are milder and sweeter, and also ripened first. At first there were just a few, and I’d have one and give Chloe the rest. Then it was one for her, one for me. Now she gets the golden ones and I get the red ones, and if there are enough left over I bring some inside for Eric. The raspberry season is young; I think there’s going to be plenty for Eric.

This is exactly how raspberries should be eaten. We had a patch when I was growing up, and Dad would send my brother and me outside with a four-quart bowl. “Pick raspberries,” he said. “Watch out for the bees.” We watched. We picked. We filled up the bowl, besides eating some ourselves. That’s what raspberry picking should be like: bounteous plenty, with a red-stained mouth, and the prospect of more every day. The state of almost being tired of raspberries, only you can’t because they’re raspberries. I’m so glad my raspberries are finally grown up the way they’re supposed to be, and I’m so glad I’m sharing it with Chloe, even if she’s too young to remember right now. Wherever we live, we’ll have raspberry patches just like this.

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

Marion Zimmer Bradley