Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fruits of the Non-Garden

The pumpkins that now adorn my front steps should be considered a Hollywood special effects trick. And the tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and other colorful produce plucked from that little fenced-in space just outside our sunroom.

Special effects, I say, because we did not have a garden this year. That's what Missy and I discussed. The girls were playing travel softball on NorthStars teams, Jack was playing lacrosse and we simply did not have the time to prep, plant, weed and tend a garden. The spot would lay fallow this year; we'd returning to gardening "next year." And then our Windsor Road neighbor Andy Swan got involved...and then our friend, hyper-gardener John Flowers...and finally Missy's Dad, Grampa Harry. All were determined that the Begins would not abandon their vegetable garden this year - clay-mound that it is.

Andy was the first one involved. He showed up, unannounced, on a Saturday morning as we were heading to a practice. "I'm just checkin' to see if you want me to till your garden for ya," he said, adding that he and his tractor, "Old Bessie" I think he calls her, were traveling down the road, making rototilling house calls to past customers. "Sure," we replied. "Might as well break up the ground, even though we're not putting in a garden this year." I had the fencing down fifteen minutes later and Andy went to work.

John took the lead the following week. He and his wife Ellen invited us to dinner. While at their house, John eagerly showed me the forest of plants sprouting in the one greenhouse I knew about...and then showed me another he had created since I had last visited. His yearly exuberance about gardening had reached a new high this year. "I have forty-seven varieties of tomatoes and about twenty of peppers," he said, without mentioning the copious starter pots of other vegetables that surrounded me in the larger of the two greenhouses. "I don't have any more room in my gardens, so you can have anything you want."

I nodded politely, fully recalling the agreement Missy and I had struck.

The final straw came when Grampa, learning that we now had tilled ground, stopped by with a few pumpkin seedlings to plant. "For the kids," he said. A few days later, he casually mentioned that he'd like to have some lettuce...and maybe some green beans." One week later, Missy was at the Flowers' house, picking up excess seedlings to add to the pumpkins and lettuce. Two weeks later, we had about twenty of John's forty-seven tomato and six of the pepper varieties planted in our non-garden.

We tended the rows in the evenings and the free weekends between softball tournaments, never stressing about the plot we had little invested in. We kept ahead of the weeds until the last few weeks of the growing season...and ended up with one of the best gardens we've ever planted in Chelsea's native heavy grayish clay.

Based on this experience, we now have a game plan for next spring. Don't do anything until Andy Swan visits and then let Grampa's planting preferences and John's seedling bounty dictate the rest. Course, if the kids help pull a few weeds now and then, that'd be nice too.

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