Friday, August 10, 2007

Gardening, The Rebellious Way

I am a pathetic gardener.

Yesterday I went out to my little vegetable garden plot outside my fence (because wild rabbits are less of a risk than my dog), and the little 7x7 plot was absolutely covered with these 3 to 4 feet tall bushy plants and morning glories (or chokeweed....I can't tell the difference, but they climb up plants and there are pretty white flowers)

In my defense, there is a reason for why my garden is such complete chaos, I mean other reasons besides lack of time, laziness,and hatred of mosquitoes and the heat (I would be a great gardener in San Diego). The reason is this: I am just utterly fascinated with the fact that things WANT to grow here. I grew up in the desert, and the only things that grew on their own were spurge, sagebrush, and crabgrass...and even those were kind of puny and withered.

When we moved here, it was at the end of September. When Spring finally hit, I was in complete awe. Daffodils surprised me by popping their heads out of the snow, and then the hostas came up in a circle around our tree, and then the lambs ears showed up. Every day was a new wonder. Things didn't have to be planted every year, vigorously fertilized, and watered every day for fear of burning up. On the other hand, things that were perennial in Nevada or California, weren't necessarily perennial here. I simply couldn't bring myself to weed because I just wanted to see what would come up next and I was still figuring out what was a weed and what wasn't (that and I was chasing around Maggie, the 1 year old human cyclone).

There are fewer surprises now, but still there are. I will admit, I simply left the baby Queen Anne's Lace in my front flower bed because I just like the way they look...and I've really never seen them spread and grow to over 4 feet tall before! So note for next year: they get scraggly. But right now, they actually look charming with the daisies and echinacea (rightful tenants) peeping through.

My vegetable garden is the same way. You see, that first year, when I cleared the patch out that was left to me, it was thoroughly dominated by onions-gone-wild and lemon balm (which also brought delight and opportunities for culinary experimentation by my son - and oh, what an aromatic delight to weed!), besides the things I planted, new things grew. When I cleared those out, the plants that grew wild in it were completely different than the ones that had been dominant before I cleared it (I even inadvertently let a couple of trees start growing on one end).

This Spring, thanks to the "contributions" of my beloved pet rabbits, the grass thrived in my garden like it did nowhere else in my actual lawn. I ripped it out and started planting vegetables...but I left a few morning glories (or chokeweed, whichever). And to be fair, I only left them in the part of the patch that I hadn't cultivated yet. And despite my knowing that they could be a bit difficult, I was utterly fascinated at how they thrived. There had been one or two plants there amidst the other weeds the year before, but now they completely took over and cover the ground in a carpet of lush green, and really, they are beautiful.

So last night, I looked at my sorry excuse of a vegetable garden and decided it was time to clear out some things, and this leads to my other fascination.....I started pulling out the 3 foot tall mystery plants (not morning glories, they had these thick stalks with red streaks on them) and underneath them was this beautiful, clear, deep brown soil. I so LOVE that (its also gratifying to pull up one plant and voila- have a 2 square foot patch completely much for getting them when they are small!). Soil, where I grew up was nonexistent unless you purchased it from the store, and the dirt was light beige and powdery (and caused agony and exfoliation when the wind blew). The "contributions" that my rabbits have made to the garden have definitely helped the clay-like consistency here, but that chocolate colored soil is just gorgeous.

I've found that there have been three benefits to my gardening this way, and I'll leave out "doesn't require constant exertion on my part" as one of those reasons (I'm coming to terms with the fact that I just don't do consistency well - I do much better with activities that require sudden bursts of energy and then periods of complete neglect).

1. It feeds my wonder and keeps the little kid in me alive.

2. The morning glories have made a wonderful living mulch - protecting the soil and besides that, have prevented anything else that is harder to weed from growing. Those 3 foot tall plants, whatever they were, came out easily and did the same thing. Now I have a space for plants for a fall harvest.

3. It actually protects the actual vegetable plants that I have in there, even from me. When I started clearing out, I realized "oh yeah, I did plant peppers. And since there had been so little rain, they seemed like they were in the post-fertilization phase, but hadn't actually grown the peppers voila...wonder renewed.

I also have made some improvements in my actual gardening ability this year. Over half the plants I bought made it in the ground this year (I could kick myself that the asparagus didn't). I also managed to buy insecticidal soap this year at the food co-op, and actually managed to use it before my cabbages were completely devoured. The tomatoes actually will get staked today! And I did manage to diagram the first few rows that I planted before my gardening journal was taken over by knitting projects, so I could look and see that those 3 foot mystery plants probably weren't the peas that I planted there (besides, I'd seen those wither in the heat back in May) These are BIG improvements for me.

Maybe someday I'll be a serious gardener, but for now I'm having a lot of fun.


elephantschild said...

I've noticed almost no discernible difference in vegetable yields between weeding and not weeding.

So, my garden looks terrible. I'm sure I'm the talk of the town, that's how scandalously weedy my garden is.

Whatever. I'm NOT going out there in the heat to weed just so it looks pretty. BWAH!

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

LOL....I guess that one good side of the Western tradition of having 6 foot fences outlining your property is that it cures neighbors of worrying about what is going on in your back yard.

Garden update: tomatoes are staked. I really should've done that months ago...and doing it at dusk isn't a good idea either. I got eaten alive. But ITS DONE!! And tomatoes can ripen now