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Good grief. I take a week off to get married and my garden completely transforms. For one thing, the weeds have moved in and made themselves comfortable. I’m going to have to take some serious anti-weed action in the next couple of days, after I clean up the house and put away the wedding stuff–or to avoid doing it.

The tomatoes seem to have doubled in size, and a couple of them have flowers. I need to get their stakes out pronto. The spinach has bolted, which annoys me greatly–I haven’t even gotten to enjoy a spinach salad yet. I don’t think I like this variety of spinach; I’ll try something else next year. On the other hand, the lettuce is quite lush and ready. We’re definitely having salad the next couple of days. After all the meals out, and then catering, I’m dying for some good home-cooked meals anyway.

The sunflowers are thriving, but the green beans don’t seem to be coming up. This also annoys me greatly. The other beans are doing just fine, as are the broccoli, the cucumber (except for one), the zucchini, and the peppers. The eggplants still look bedraggled, poor things, and I noticed huge gatherings of tiny red beetles. I hope they’re not harmful. I wonder if they might be boxelder bug nymphs, and if they would really bother my three fruit trees. If so, I might bring out the boiling water.

There are four plants in my potato plot that seem to be too big for five days’ growth–but they’re right above the four potatoes I planted, so I guess they’re potato plants. I guess I’ll know if they need hilling.

The wedding went well. My flowers were white and blue, and I’ll be pressing them tonight so I can put them into photo albums and thank-you notes. I had intended to pass them out but the florist didn’t accommodate that in tying them together, and I didn’t fuss about it. Our centerpieces were papyrus in glass containers with river rocks, and I’m going to keep at least one of the plants (and give others to my new brother-in-law and stepmother-in-law). We also had a couple of potted plants as decorations. Suddenly I’m surrounded by plants. And why not? It’s getting to be summer and I no longer have to worry about planning my wedding. Bring on the plants. Bring on the weeds, even.

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I have pea blooms! I went to the garden yesterday to poke around–nothing’s dead except a few weeds I pulled while I was there–and found a few small white blossoms in my pea patch. I’m thrilled. I don’t even have to worry about whether bees will find them (since nothing else is blooming in my garden yet and the bleeding heart is on the other end of the yard) since they’re self-pollinating. There are peas in my future.

I noted that only the lower half of the tomatoes’ leaves are flea-beetle-hole-ridden, meaning they’ve been stealth growing by leaps and, potentially, bounds. Once I actually looked at them, especially compared to older pictures, I could see that. The two older eggplants aren’t doing well, but I planted my last one with the cucumbers and it has no holes in it yet, so I guess late May is the right time to avoid the flea beetles. Good to know for next year.

Everything else looks good, except for the sparseness of the carrots; but I planted more recently, and the ones that came up look fine. The beans are leafy and bright, the broccoli are starting to look like actual plants, the Swiss chard is small but growing quickly. We had salad with dinner last night made with lettuce and onions from the garden, and Eric seemed surprised that the lettuce tasted like real lettuce.

My wedding is this weekend, and my parents are coming to town tomorrow, so I’m not expecting to get any serious gardening–by which I mean any at all, except the potting of the papyrus that’s going to sit at the gazebo where the ceremony is–done until next week. I will probably go there every day anyway, as I have been, to look at the little plants peacefully growing and take out my anxiety on the weeds.

One of my biggest lessons this gardening year so far has been that I need wiggle room in my plans for plants I hadn’t intended to buy. Look at my impulse-buy onions and potatoes, my let’s-plant-a-tomato-early purchase, my fairly random snatch of a packet of Swiss chard seeds. This weekend it was cucumbers.

I had planned to buy a cucumber plant, mind you. It was to sit serenely beside the lemon cucumber and produce a couple of cucumbers every once in a while for the occasional salad or snack. We went to Andersons for strawberries and peaches (for wedding ice cream) and pots (for wedding papyrus and a bay tree they had at Oak Park, where we got the papyrus) and I intended to get just such a plant, because it’s time to stop with the planting and start with the growing.

“I’d like to try pickling,” Eric said after I had dragged him to the appropriate aisle, avoiding looking at the other plants on the way, just in case. “It would be nice to have a lot of cucumbers.”

He was looking at the pickling cucumbers. I was looking at the Burpless and Straight Eights, slicing cucumbers. Eric hasn’t asked much of the garden–parsley and carrots, so far, and is more or less willing to be patient on the carrots. (No sign of the parsley yet. Maybe of the dill, but then again they might be a new kind of weed. Next year I’ll know to soak the parsley seeds first and start them much, much earlier.) So of course we had to get the second cucumber. Then it transpired that Andersons didn’t thin their cucumber plants, and there were two or three plants in each pot. So we came home with three Straight Eight seedlings and two Bush Pickle seedlings.

As it happens, we finally cleared out the little bed by the garage of trash, and I intended to mulch and eventually plant things there anyway. As it also happens, one of the two blueberry bushes is definitely dead. So I had space to plant, barely. Two of the Straight Eights went into the space where I’d planned on the one (they can be spaced closer than I thought, 10″, so it wasn’t too bad actually) and one in the garage bed, and one of the Bush Pickles went into the blueberry bush pot and the other into the ground beside it, where I won’t trod on it on the way to the compost bin if I’m careful.

I also planted my cantaloupes, more than I probably really have room for, and my homegrown pepper (which has almost caught up to the nursery plants!), and my tomato-like weed. Butternut squash and pumpkins will go into the garden in a week or two, and after that I should–theoretically–not be buying any more vegetables for planting. At least not until fall.

It was humid, the sky light and cheerful in one patch, dark and scowling in another. The air was tense. I poked around in my garden, thinking I ought to fertilize, but not wanting to get caught in the rain. So I picked some green onionsĀ (to make a spicy sauce I learned from my mother), went inside, and picked up my garden journal (where I’ve been recording when I plant things and when they come up.) “It’s going to storm soon,” I wrote.

Suddenly trees were bending, the sky completely dark. Rain pelted down at a forty-five degree angle. The house shook. “It’s storming now,” I wrote.

The storm lasted until darkness, which was fine since I had an ice cream test batch to make and a quilt to work on. (Notably, both of these things are wedding-related.) This morning was much cooler than yesterday (57 instead of 80) and I probably should have brought in the zucchini I started hardening off yesterday. But I didn’t; instead, I went for a quick walk through the garden before work.

The bush beans greeted me, thicker than they had been–I ended up planting my entire seed packet, so I hope they do well. I noted, as I haven’t before, that I need to plant more carrots and spinach to fill in the holes where nothing germinated. The pole beans and sunflowers had gotten bigger. The marigolds and nasturtiums had gotten much bigger. A friend gave me some cosmos, and I forgot to check on them–I’ll have to do that this afternoon.

I’m also going to make good on my thought of fertilizing. The newer leaves on my tomatoes are much darker than the older ones. They’re also much less flea-beetle-hole-riddled, which is a good sign, but I’d like to help them along. I’m not sure the eggplants are going to recover at all. I do have one extra plant that I kept back, but now I’m afraid to plant it at all. But what’s gardening, or any hobby, without taking risks? You learn and live, even if the plant doesn’t.

I didn’t get the fencing today. (Partly because I visited the florist and was under severe sticker shock when I came out. I think I’m going to find another florist, if I can.) But it’s supposed to be sunny and warm the next eight days at least, and seeds don’t germinate overnight, so I decided to plant.

I prepared my beds a few weeks ago by digging in compost and raking them smooth, and I’ve been trying to keep them weed-free. It’s amazing how many weed seeds were in that soil–still are, I’m sure. I started by planting my purple sage in a container (since next year the herb bed will be the strawberry bed and the sage, I’m told, might survive the winter), then cilantro and rosemary plants and dill and parsley seeds in the herb bed. Then I prayed to the Parsley Gods to smile upon me, for I need great quantities of parsley to appease he who is to be my husband and thereby share in the seed-purchasing.

Ahem. I pulled up the poor sunflower stems that had been chewed, every single one, and replanted seeds. One of the seeds I put in earlier has already sprouted, but its shell is still covering it for now. I planted Hopi Red Dye amaranth south of that, and Hutterite Soup beans (bush) south of that, and south of that I removed the couple of broccolis that had also been chewed on and threw a couple of more seeds in, though I think it’s probably too late now to grow broccoli from seed before it gets too hot to be good. We’ll see.

I also planted the last of my onion sets, in the corners of the raised beds where I won’t be planting anything anyway. I’ve heard the tales of onion as insect repellent are a myth, but I needed to plant them anyway, so why not? And I tossed a few carrot seeds into the west bed where the tomatoes will go. They can germinate or not.

Speaking of germinating, some of my carrots have. At least two are confirmed carrots, as I can see their tiny true leaves; and the grasslike cotyledons of all the tiny plants in the carrot rows don’t look like weeds anywhere else in the garden so I’m guessing those are as well. Hooray! The lettuce and the spinach and peas are still fine, if small, and the Swiss chard has sprouted, and again I’m reasonably confident it’s the Swiss chard and not weeds only because they’re coming up in a line.

After I finished up the garden, including turning the compost piles, I planted some Golden Marguerite in the side yard, pulling up daylilies to make room. I’m not really fond of daylilies. They’re so pushy and ostentatious. (Or maybe I’m influenced by my visit to the florist.) And I weeded the little bed by the driveway that shares a fence with the neighbors’ raised bed. Their side is suddenly tilled and brown and bare of weeds, so I need to do my part.

And then I came inside and planted the first of the salad bowl: tiny carrots and baby romaine lettuce. The Micro-Toms are up, and I’m thinking that I’m just going to keep them in their little pots and take one to accompany this salad bowl. Once I add the spinach and radishes and basil/parsley/onion, there won’t be enough space as it is.

Today I was sewing wedding invitations. (I was only sewing the binding, the cover to the vellum–oh, never mind.) The eighth one defied me until my fifth try, when I discovered that I’d messed up anyhow and it was irreparable, and I threw it into the hall and decided to go outside.

On Friday, I had gone to Lowe’s for dirt and pots, and while there I had seen fruit trees, including winesap apples. Now, my fiance (Eric) and his mother both love winesaps. So I mentioned it when I got home. He, in turn, was hesitant to get an apple tree when we’re planning on moving in two years. “But maybe Mom would like one,” he said. “Since she’s probably going to stay in her house until she dies.” So he called her up, and–after she objected that she didn’t have room for two trees and we assured her that there were enough apple trees in the neighborhood to pollinate hers–we live in the same neighborhood so we know it’s true–she requested that we purchase one for her. So we went back to Lowe’s Saturday. We picked out a nice one. Then I noticed they had nectarine trees. “Do you want a nectarine tree?” Eric said. I said, reluctantly, “No. You don’t really like them.” He said, “You know, those peach trees are flowering, so they might get fruit this year.” So we bought a Red Haven peach, and when my invitation fury overcame me I went out to plant it.

We already have a pear tree in the yard (also an Asian pear in the garden), and we agreed that if we planted the peach tree somewhat near it and created an island in the backyard, there would still be room for kids (the next owners’, presumably) to run around but less grass for Eric to mow. “In fact, you could expand your garden to run the entire length of the backyard, behind it,” Eric suggested. “I wouldn’t mind at all.”

So I dug a neat hole where we agreed to put the tree, and spent a few minutes extracting dirt and worms from the grass to replace over its roots. For some reason, it makes me particularly happy to see the earthworms everywhere in my ground. For some reason I think it’s sterile and dead. I saw the weeds last summer; why would I think that?

The island itself is something I’ll be working on in the next several weeks, to be finished before the wedding (when everyone comes to see the new house). Also the flower beds, which I finished raking out–I started it last night and felt like Mary Lennox, clearing space around green spears poking out of the earth. And I planted peas and carrots, and spread some manure and humus. The garden is mostly bare, with some dead grass here and there (and a little alive under the Asian pear), and I’m going to be slowly transforming it into a vegetable garden–in pieces, as things need planting, since I’m not virtuous enough to spend a week just plain digging. But for a morning’s break, it’ll do.

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

Marion Zimmer Bradley

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