Thursday, September 20, 2012


            For a long time, I toyed with the idea of penning a volume entitled The Lazy Gardener. It seemed a perfect fit because I garden and I’m lazy. Too lazy, I guess: Mara Grey beat me to the punch, before I’d even worked up enough energy to think about the project. (Disclosure: I haven’t read The Lazy Gardener, but I did peruse the front and back dust-jacket flaps and the back cover courtesy of Amazon Books. I’d’ve scanned the first pages, too, but, well, you know. Lazy. But I did put it on my wish list, because it looks like a good read.)

            I trundled out into the front yard Monday afternoon, with a view to preparing the raised beds for fall root crops. How hard can it be? I asked myself. Mix up some Black Kow, Garden-Tone and kelp meal in the wheelbarrow, fluff it into soil, plant the seeds. About an hour into it, however, the only seeds being sown were the ones for this post, along with several alternative titles, such as IT ALWAYS TAKES MORE TIME THAN YOU THOUGHT IT WOULD and NO LAZY GARDENER GOES UNPUNISHED. 

Bye-bye, pumpkins
            The first distraction came from the melon patch, where pickleworms have joined the cabbage loopers in a stem-and-fruit-invading, leaf-chewing, poopilific free-for-all. Despite fairly assiduous caterpillar-crushing sessions every other day or so, I lost every single pumpkin and ‘Honey Rock’ melon plant, and my first baby ‘Sakata Sweet’ melon. Well, huh, I thought, so planting late in the season doesn’t necessarily ensure success. Taking uncharacteristic pleasure in the act, I squished every looper I could find against the sides of the Grow-Bags and cut the melon-drilling pickleworm into three pieces with my Joyce Chens.

Melon plant destroyed by cabbage loopers
            As a further consolation measure, I moved the (dead) tomato trellises to support the (temporarily) remaining melons, a brilliant idea that required locating wire cutters to disentangle said trellises from irrigation lines. Sigh. That chore done—although it reminded me I should use the wire cutters to clip a few openings in the tomato cages I’d fashioned out of fencing fabric that would actually allow a hand holding a tomato to pass through them, a thought filed under “Later”—I moved on to the main event.

Kelp meal, Garden-Tone & Black Kow
            Mixing up 50 pounds of Kow/Tone/kelp in the wheelbarrow very nearly went as planned. I could only find one glove (the left-hand one), so incorporating the fertilizers into the Kow was messier than it absolutely needed to be. About halfway through the process, it occurred to me I should document my progress with the camera… which was, naturally, inside the house. I retrieved it, leaving a trail of soil amendments across the living room carpet that would have to be dealt with at some point. Then I had to pose the shot, meaning the man-handling of yet another sopping wet 50-pound bag of Kow off the ground and into the ’barrow.

Wheelbarrow boo-boo
             It was at about this time I realized the wheelbarrow wouldn’t fit through the garden’s gate. Well, piffle, I thought (or something close to “piffle”; it had an "f" in it). Back to rummaging in the work truck for joint-compound buckets. Search successful, I filled one and entered the garden. I’d yanked out the tomatoes a week or so ago, so now, in theory, all I had to do was toss the Kow mix on the bed, ruffle it in, and go get the seeds.

            Garden-activity theories have much in common with the dismal science of economics: they only work if you first assume away the real world.

Bucket o' roots
            Hopes of smooth seeding evaporated as soon as I tried the first ruffle. Root crops naturally produce best in easily penetrated ground. Seven millimeters below the surface of the former tomato patch lurked a tangle of tough tomato, crabapple and centipedegrass roots that simply had to go. Heavy sigh.

             The good news? I found my right-hand glove while scrabbling in the truck for buckets. The bad news? There was a hole in the index fingertip, my prime root-hook. I tried to work around it for a while, continually wriggling my finger back inside the glove. Finally I remembered a little trick learned back when Tim and I regularly laid sod—I reversed the gloves so the hole moved to the top of my left index finger,  where it was less annoying.

Root-crop-ready at last
            Some folks advocate using machines to make short work of root-infested soil. Others suggest tools like trowels and claws. Not me. I’m a hands-on kind of person. So a quart of water in, two quarts of sweat out and one hour later, most of that four-by-eight area was root-crop-ready. Except that by the time I’d rested long enough for my heart-rate to return to normal and tidied up the area, I was too tired to plant the seeds.

Unplanted seeds
            The Lazy Gardener? Once you’re out there in the trenches, there’s no such thing. You either love it, or you don’t. As the late Henry Mitchell trenchantly observed in The Essential Earthman: "There are only gardeners and non-gardeners. Gardeners are the ones who ruin after ruin get on with the high defiance of nature herself, creating in the face of chaos and tornado, the bower of roses and the pride of irises. It sounds very well to garden in a 'natural way.' You may see the natural way in any desert, any swamp, any leech-filled dell. Defiance, on the other hand, is what makes a gardener."  


         Saturday, September 22, is big doin's, astronomically. In the morning, the autumnal equinox occurs at 10:49 a.m., officially kicking off fall with dramatically converging sunrises and sets. If you haven't already noticed the days getting shorter, you'll have to be sequestered in a basement or cave to miss it now. Saturday evening has been designated the official (whatever that means) International Observe the Moon Night. SkyGuy at the Naval Observatory urges us to go out and give the moon a wink in memory of Neil Armstrong.


             Meanwhile, back on Earth... All you defiant dirt monkeys out there, I salute you. And thanks for dropping by.  


The lazy gardener, done for the day

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