My garden is dreamy right now. The exotic scent from my clerodendrum tree permeates the backyard, where bees still buzz merrily and dozens of plants—both of the edible and look-at-me-aren’t-I-beautiful variety—continue to thrive.
What you wouldn’t guess by looking at the yard is that it’s got me in serious panic mode. In addition to the many hours I spent weeding various beds (and barely making a dent in the ongoing project) this past weekend, I also put in a considerable amount of time retrieving oversized zucchini from behind the elaborate wire fence we’d put up to keep the chickens out of the crop.
Now that the vines of cherry tomatoes and winter squash have wound themselves into the fabric of the temporary safety measure, getting to the vegetables was not a simple thing. After managing to secure a foot-long space with which to dive in and rescue the yellow and green zucchinis, I nearly lost my clippers—and my left arm—while attempting to retrieve a monster that had grown to approximately two feet.
As an urban farmer, I’ve come to the realization that having a garden that sustains me with both food and beauty is well worth the time and effort it takes to keep it up. Around this time of year, however, I sometimes find myself dreaming of late fall and deep winter, when the endless chores required to keep it up will be done.
I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. With urban gardening on the rise, more and more people are looking to their front and back yards for ways to eat and live better.
What I’m here to tell you, though, is that gardening isn’t always fun. Your hands will get filthy and you won’t always be able to get the grit out of your fingernails. Crops will fail, and the chickens will end up eating your diseased Brussels sprouts. Weeds will grow faster than lettuce, and if you don’t keep on top of things, the weeds will win. If you forget to dig up your dahlias before the first frost, they might be gone forever.
In other words, if you don’t find digging in the dirt to be fun, gardening probably isn’t for you. However, if you stick with it—and remember that a down time will eventually come—the rewards can be big.
Although I didn’t relish rescuing the zucchini from their prison, I’ve now got a few months worth stored in my larder (along with the potatoes I harvested a few weeks ago). The plums are almost ripe, and I’ll pick those next to freeze or make jam with. I’m getting enough tomatoes and blackberries to eat on the daily, and if the lettuce doesn’t bolt that should see me through until fall.
I’ve still got a lot of work ahead of me to ensure crops are collected and the weeds don’t win, but if I go stand under the clerodendrum tree and inhale for a few minutes, it lightens the load. It’s still summer, after all, and there are things to do.
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