Friday, September 28, 2007

All Tucked In

This morning the kids and I spent a couple of hours putting the garden to bed for the winter. What you see in the photo are the homemade tomato cages that P put together for me a couple of years ago. He got the pattern for them from Mother Earth News magazine. Nothing says "granola crunching, sandals-with-socks hippy" more than homemade tomato cages from Mother Earth News magazine. But there they are, just the same.

I hate to wax poetic about this about as much as you're going to hate reading about it, but they are the best tomato cages you can imagine. Wide at the bottom, narrow at the top, they guide those bushy tomato plants loosely without pinching them like my wire cages do. The open framework allows easy access to those ripe tomatoes that grow deep within the plant's branches. I really like these frames. We put them up every summer. Even though I know how practical and useful they are, I can't help feeling like our neighbors think we're constructing antenna for alien contact when we put them up in the spring. They are odd looking, especially before the plants grow in. Because I neglected to fertilize, this summer the plants never really did grow in. Tall and leggy, the tomatoes looked rather pathetic. Putting these monstrous frames up felt like overkill. It was not unlike trying to shoot a squirrel with a grenade launcher.

After taking the frames down and stowing the metal cages in the garage (sort of, at least. I'm sure P will have a heart attack when he sees the haphazard manner in which I laid them on the workbench), I took the clippers and trimmed back all of the random tree shoots that have grown unhindered throughout the summer. Even though my garden is small I have the worst time keeping up on it. Random trees and bushes grow from the nooks and crannies of the garden. Weeds overrun the small space once I figure the vegetables are big enough to fend for themselves. Of course, up to this point the garden has been my own project. Either my parents or my in-laws till up the ground in the spring, and my dad keeps me supplied with his surplus seedlings, but the planting and watering and the weeding are all up to me. P certainly looked skeptical last week when I suggested planting a bigger garden next year. I want to grow some garlic and onions, carrots, turnips, and parsnips. There simply isn't enough room in our back yard, much less actual sunny space for a proper garden. I was trying to talk him into making the garden something of a team effort--we could actually mulch! Of course, after seeing the kind of neglect my garden already suffers from, I understand his reluctance to make the garden bigger. I'm sure he feels like the only way he gets spared the work of making our garden grow is to remove himself from the job altogether.

I can't say I blame him. Speaking only for myself, I have to admit that the best part of gardening is putting it away in the fall. No matter how leggy your tomatoes, or weedy your garden bed, once it's all put away you can look forward to a fresh start in the spring.

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