Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Last Saturday the weather in Alameda was just glorious. The sky was cloudless and blue, the sun was hot, but the air in the shade still had an edge of crispness. It was perfect weather to dig, to amend, and to plant. Inside, I had an entire room of junk that needed to be sorted, and boxed, and stored to facilitate a renovation project. Inside, I had piles of laundry to be folded and put away. Inside, I had a sink full of dishes, catboxes in need of changing, and an assortment of other chores and responsibilities. With my daughter away for the day with our beloved Abuyens, it was an opportunity to GET THINGS DONE.  I needed to get in and get started.


But the outside air was just too delicious to miss.  I would, I thought, just work outside for a little while. Half an hour at most. Really. I’d just get my herbs into the rocky little area that I had prepared for them the previous weekend.  In less than twenty minutes, it was done.   


Oh well, time to go inside.  On my way to the front door,  I paused to do a bit of involuntary weeding. (You know involuntary weeding, right? It’s the kind of weeding you do in heals and a cocktail gown, when you’re walking out on your way to the school gala, with your freshly painted nails… You really have no choice in the matter.  You spy that nasty Oxalis peaking out from your strawberry patch, and its very existence enrages you. It becomes a moral imperative that it be immediately ripped out, which causes you to notice the crab grass growing between the edging and the stone, which cannot be allowed to sink further tendrils in, and those tendrils lead you to one of those damned prickly balls which is attempting to sprout a tree in your garden…you know, THAT kind of weeding, the end result of which is you arrive half an hour late to the formal event looking flushed and happy, but with a quarter inch of good black soil under your nails.)


Anyway, this particular involuntary weeding led me to another little area I’d prepared two weeks ago, and which I hadn’t yet earmarked for a recipient. But in this gorgeous fresh air, the answer was right there, waiting for me. Hmmm…might be a good spot for red onions. Which I happen to have handy, right over there. I’ll just pop those in, and then go inside.  


Then, while collecting my onion starts, I notice that my lovely salad greens, particularly the delicate Amish deer tongue lettuces that I am so looking forward to trying, are wilting a bit in their little seed pots.  I should get those in the ground, I muse.


Onions safely tucked in to their nice new home, I amend the green bed. And plant my greens. And water them, and take pleasure in watching the perk up before my eyes. And of course, next to the green bed is my now-browning snow pea trellis…definitely on its last legs.  Can’t have that eyesore in the middle of my beautiful garden, now, can I? Time to uproot those babies, and throw them to the tortoises.


Then, while carrying the last pea plants to the tortoise house I notice last year’s tomato cages leaning against the wall.  I know you’re not supposed to plant tomatoes before May 1, but the weather is sooooo nice…surely I can get one in the ground?  Right? Right?


So I dig a nice deep hole in an already fertilized bed.  Lacking a big fish-head to tuck in there, I improvise, raiding my husband’s freezer for a hunk of silversides.  Then I add some humic acid, a couple of crushed eggshells, some organic fertilizer, some compost. I fret a bit over the whole list of other things I don’t have on-hand put in the hole (Cynthia from Love Apple Farm, my garden guru, keeps a whole laundry list of things that go in her tomato holes…resulting in 12 foot plants, and I’m not exaggerating.) But, considering that I’ve never added anything to a tomato hole before other than, well, a tomato plant, I figured “good enough.” And in went the plant.  I buried her up a few inches above the previous soil line. Which brought the now empty trellis into my line of sight. So I amend that area, and plant three variety of cukes where they can happily climb.  Then I sort of do a “random garden walk” tucking in a few extra seedlings here and there and everywhere.


Then, I looked at the unplanted greens that were leftover from the first greens patch. They are now looking even sadder than the original greens had. (Ok, I know I’m doing the plant-equivalent of anthropomorphism; all the greens needed was a bit of extra water.  But my deeper plant sense said they wanted to go in the ground ASAP.)  And one can never have too many salad greens when my daughter is around. So I prepare another bed. And plant it. And water deeply.


Phew! Time to go inside.  Of course, on the walk in, my eye is drawn to the offensive prickly balls (seeds from the lovely liquid amber maple that grows from our median strip) that were literally littering my entire garden.  And the grass that was springing up in and around my ornamentals.  And the morning glory sprouts with whom I fight an ongoing, bitter, and unrelenting war. 


After all my excellent efforts, I couldn’t leave my garden looking so…untended. It just wasn’t right! I’d spent so much energy and love upon it, it deserved to look spiffy! I’m pretty sure that at this point, I just surrendered to the inevitable. I spent the next two hours cleaning and tugging and pulling and raking and sweeping.  And when it was all done, I looked at my garden.  The last beets were waving their large, green leaves in the breeze. The tall prickly iris were making their annual obstreperous show.  The diminutive Johnny jump-ups were lending late season color here and there.  The new plantings were happily tucked into their enriched, organic soil.  The remaining seedlings were consolidated into two neat flats.  The soil bags and tools were tucked away. The sidewalk was swept clean of the evidence.  All of it was resplendent in the late afternoon light. And I?  I was happy down to my toes.


I never did get to that laundry.