Published in the Rains County Leader on April 12, 2016:
The big garden news this years is that there’s not much garden, at least so far. The gophers will be disappointed to know that I missed the fall garlic planting altogether. About eight or ten volunteer plants sprouted in the garden area, and about that many came up around the back porch where Kitty knocked them off the drying rack last summer. Aside from that, my little underground friends will have to go elsewhere to find seasoning for their Italian meals, and the squirrels will have to do without early tomatoes for their salads.
David and I were on our Pacific Northwest adventure for the month of October, and that’s the time when Dirk, the Garlic King and one of my chief gardening mentors says the bulbs need to go into the ground. Between the cold I caught in Denver that stayed with me until February and the unseasonal rains, my little garden plots have remained overgrown and unplanted until a few weeks ago.
One Saturday last month when David was working in the yard, I cajoled him into tilling the largest of my three growing areas. Working quickly ahead of the tiller, I dug up the garlic plants and set them aside. By the time David finished, the residual ground water was standing in the prints of his rubber boots, so I donned my own boots, grabbed a rake, and went to work. Staying on the dryer edge of the plot, I managed to form a couple of crooked but serviceable rows. Kitty came out to supervise and to encourage me by rubbing against my legs as I reset the garlic plants. I also sowed some lettuce, spinach, and other seeds that should have been planted weeks ago. Then, the rains came again.
By the time the skies cleared, there were several huge trenches where gopher runs had cave in, and blank spaces where most of the seeds had been planted. A few days later, a few green sprigs began to appear – four lonely Romaine plants, a row of mustard greens that needed some drastic thinning, and a lot of weeds. For the next couple of weeks, I pulled a few weeds here and there and then returned to my computer.
Last week, David asked if I planned to have a garden this year, and I realized I had to either get serious or give my little plots over to the grasshoppers and the weeds. After giving it a little bit of thought, I decided I really didn’t want to lose the whole year. Since I was getting such a late start, Saturday morning I hit the stores and came home with a tray full of bedding plants – jalapenos, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and okra. I put on my gardening clothes and went to work, this time without Kitty. She apparently had bugs to chase and piles of oak blossoms to roll in.
Some of the bedding plants went into empty spots between the garlic and the greens, but after the first two rows were filled, there were lots of veggies left. The surface of the soil had hardened from the rain, and I was tiring quickly. I thought about asking David to hit it with the tiller again, but he was inside nursing a sore throat. I skipped my usual routine of raking the whole area and forming raised rows and instead used the hoe/weeder to break up and clear a couple of strips. Even with the shortcuts, too many hours of sitting at the computer won before I was even halfway through the tray of plants.
I’m not as late as I was three years ago when I planted my first scraggly garden in July, but it’s supposed to rain again Monday, and I have a couple of new chapters for the novel I’m working on that will continue to burn a hole in my brain until I get them into the computer. Still, I have made a start. Maybe I’ll eventually produce enough of a crop to provide a few treats for the local wildlife.