Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Gardener's Lament

You know you're a gardener when you begin to feel that itch in your fingers toward the end of winter, if not sooner; the itch that tells you to get out and start digging--gloves or no. Last year, this was a problem for me because it rained for what seemed like at least half of forever. We couldn't dig or plant because the ground was so thoroughly saturated that it would only compact the soil and suffocate the plants. So no peas or beans, and the tomatoes--three kinds!--were so late going in that they didn't start to ripen until just before we moved.

Which leads to another sign that you're a gardener: Anxiously checking on the plants every morning and afternoon, searching for a luscious, perfectly red tomato with the unmistakable smell of summer, the smell that you could carry around all day just from the periodic dives between the tomato cages. As our move date edged closer and closer, I was tempted to pull up the zucchini to give the tomatoes a better shot. But I couldn't bring myself to do it, and so instead just kept trimming the dead leaves, weeding, diving and inhaling. The day we moved, I made Thomas bring in a couple of green tomatoes with the zucchini and basil. Every year growing up, my mother would make fried green tomatoes--lightly dipped in seasoned flour and fried to a pale, crisp gold. They were one of the bookends of my summers: Banana splits on the last day of school; fried green tomatoes just before we pulled the plants out at the end of the season.

I really miss our garden. We have plants on the deck in containers but it's not the same. And while Fresh Fields has nice produce, there is nothing like eating a warm tomato right off the vine--especially a vine that you watched grow from a 4" pot. And once again, I'm starting to feel my gardener's anxiety as the days begin to slip into autumn: the light has shifted; the comforters are back on the beds; and the last two evenings, I've smelled wood smoke from a neighboring fireplace.

Our landscaper won't start the plan for a couple of weeks yet and I can't bring myself to spend time in the yard because it cries out to be nurtured. The nurturing it needs is going to take a BobCat and a lot more time than I have in between errands, snacks and games of Go Fish, and more than Thomas has between work and sunset. According to a neighbor who has been here for 35 years, our yard has not been touched in at least 15 years.

Lest you think I exaggerate (of course I do, just not this time), this photo was taken in the spring. The green is the weeds, now a lovely straw color:

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