When I was a kid we had a victory garden. I think the word victory implied we were helping to vanquish the enemy by growing tomatoes; if there were any victory involved it surely belonged to the weeds.
The kids in my family, having just moved to northern Vermont from Hartford, Conn., thought that gardening was just great fun and we threw ourselves into it. That was for about three days; then we went on to other wonders of living in the country and the garden went to seed.
Today, especially at this time of year, I find gardening again to be a wondrous experience. After the winter like the one we have just survived, digging in the dirt is heavenly and down right therapeutic. I can’t get enough of it. Already we have feasted on our own spinach and chives, (not at the same time) and there’s more where they came from.
I weed with passion in June. If the wrong green head appears in my dirt, out it goes. That particular chore is done with an increasingly more casual attitude as the summer moves on.
Now as I pursue victory in the garden I have new enemies to face: too much rain and a gray furry woodchuck who strolls through my tomato plants as if he were in the Co-op, looking for what’s particularly fresh today before making a selection.
There’s a chipmunk that pulls up the same sunflower day after day. We fools replant it just to see if he will come back, and he does, so we are all happy.
The rain that is so welcome in the early days of seed sowing has been a bit too much for my baby seedlings and many have keeled over and rotted from lack of sun. I have a method of seed planting that I read about some where a few years ago that calls for a good deal of rain for about a crucial week. I line up my seeds along pieces of toilet paper and then fold the strips over lengthwise and plant the whole thing. It’s great for tiny seeds that are so hard to handle and therefore usually end up in clumps rather than the nice even rows that toilet tissue provides. The toilet tissue must be the cheapest, flimsiest you can find so that it will disintegrate and allow the tiny little roots to push through the damp paper. In a few weeks the toilet paper has pretty much disappeared and the stalwart little parsley or basil plants come up in pretty evens rows.
We have a small plot that doesn’t get a lot of sun, so we have to choose our crops carefully. Gone are the days when we would try one or two zucchini plants, vowing to pick the little veggies twice a day so they wouldn’t get too big. They know how to hide under the big leaves and lay undetected until one morning there are submarine-sized squashes that have had a growth spurt when my back was turned and are now too big to handle.
This year we have found a plant that makes zucchini growth look lame. A friend gave us some hops plants and assured us they would grow along our garden fence because they love to climb. We had no intention of getting a beer crop, just some pretty foliage. The vines will wrap around anything in sight, including the chipmunk if it holds still for a minute. It zoomed across the fence and up the trellis and is sending growth skyward looking for some thing latch on to. Birds and planes beware!
I love being in the garden and at this juncture between black flies and hot humidity, will spend every moment I can getting close to the soil. I think there’s a salad out there waiting to be picked.
Linda DuCharme is retired and writes free lance.