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I’ve got a garden blanket to put over the frame for your lettuce bed, whenever you’re ready to plant a fall garden,” my friend mentioned to me on the way out of church.
I mentally surveyed the condition of my garden.
It’s that time of year when all the warm weather plants are birthing their ripened fruit. I feel like the lone obstetrician in a maternity ward where fifty pregnant women are in labor at the same time.
I’ve shared some of the bounty, but I have tomatoes ripening so fast that some are rotting before I can get to them. It’s the same with the okra. My wife cooks the world’s best fried okra, but it’s a chore and not something we eat more than once a week, so I’ve started canning them, and still some are maturing too quickly for me to keep them from becoming too large and tough. I’ve enjoyed grilled and smoked cabbage, and Lori has made delicious cabbage soup, but I lost another cabbage the other day. It had rotted before I could get to it.
It’s a gardener’s dream and a gardener’s nightmare all at once.
Of course, the vegetables are not the only plants that have been prolific. I’ve tried to stay as close to organic as possible, but on more than one occasion, I’ve been tempted to blast those weeds with a strong dose of pesticides, herbicides or any cide that will kill them. Those pesky plants have dropped me to my knees, then well near broke my back as I’ve pulled, yanked, and chopped them. Still they are winning. Flinging them in the air as I throw them out of the garden, I yell, “Out of my garden.” My two Schnauzers’ heads move back and forth in unison as they follow the trajectory of the weeds exiting the garden. Curious eyed, the dogs stare at the whole episode, as if it is some strange human ritual.
All this flashed through my mind as my friend mentioned the fall garden.
Do I really want a fall garden? Am I up to it?
The nineteenth century English poet, Alfred Austin said, “Show me your garden, and I’ll show you what you are.”
“If he’s right, I could be in trouble, “I thought to myself as I continued visualizing the state of my garden.
“You’ve been much too busy this summer,” my wife tells me as I share with her. “And by the way, those carrots you worked so hard to cultivate, well, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I’m not sure it was worth your time.”
She is right, I admit. It’s not been a leisurely summer. And I wonder if gardening is worth the time.
Stopping by the grocery store is so much more convenient. Why bother with all that composting and preparing the soil, planting and cultivating, harvesting and cleaning produce or canning?
But then, as troublesome as gardening can be, there is a joy in it beyond the reward of fresh vegetables. There is a deep satisfaction knowing they were grown on the soil you worked, that little piece of earth you sweated over as you’ve made at least some contribution to The Giving Tree.
The garden has always been there for me, waiting for me, and not just for me to tend to her, but for her to tend to me. “I’m going to the garden, “I often tell Lori after a difficult day. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “All my hurts my garden spade can heal.”
Walking down to the garden after my conversation with my friend, I take another look. I have to admit: The garden is only doing what she’s supposed to do in response to the soil preparation, and the planting, and the cultivating.
I could feel Mother Nature smiling on my garden and me.
“Lori,” I shouted from the garden as I made my way back to the house, “I’ve just had a revelation. I can‘t say ‘no’ to Mother Nature. She’s calling me back, back to the garden. I’ve got to start getting ready for a fall garden.”
Lori sighs and nods in tacit agreement.
“I’ll get the skillet ready,” she says. “Bring me a batch of okra.”
David B. Whitlock is a Baptist minister, author, educator and gardener. He can be reached at email@example.com.