Monday, July 16, 2007

The Not-So-Cute Runt

Just as the garden has its monster plants that grab everyone else’s space, it also has those small fry that fail to thrive—for a while, at least. Sometimes it’s easy to figure them out and find a cure for what ails them, but more often they produce nothing but frustration.

I first learned about the concept of runts from children’s books like Charlotte’s Web and The Hundred and One Dalmatians. The runt, in the shape of a tiny piglet or a warm, furless puppy, sounds cute and cuddly, ready to be rescued by any reasonably sensitive, loving child. It’s (literally) the underdog, the one you root for because it has so much spirit for its diminutive size. Stories about runts are inevitably ones of overcoming adversity, of internal goodness coming through, and of unexpected triumph.

But plants that are runts are far from cute. They’re just undergrown, maybe diseased or yellowing, or possibly just weak and spindly. It’s hard to love a plant that won’t put forth new leaves and stems, especially if you’ve planted only a few of its kind. Until this past week, one of my two Green Zebra tomato plants was giving me serious worries in that vein. Of the eight tomato plants I put into the garden, that one remained the smallest, and for a while, it seemed that it had hardly grown at all after I transplanted it. There was no explanation for why it was smaller than the others; its partner plant was keeping up with all the other varieties.

I treated that plant exactly the same as the others, if not better. I showered it with just a little more water (not too much, but enough to demonstrate a certain concern). I gave it the same amount of liquid fertilizer as the others, when I used the artificial stuff about four weeks ago. Nothing persuaded it to grow faster, though it showed no indications of ill health. Then, a few days ago, it began to pick up a little. It’s still on the small side, but it’s looking more and more like a real tomato plant, something that might produce a few juicy ones by summer’s end. My runt tomato still isn’t lovable, but at least it is no longer an object of worried speculation.

Others have not fared so well. My runt squash plant, as I have explained, fell victim to a vine borer and thus perished. The eggplant that survived a vicious rabbit attack which left it with a single emerging leaflet is still in its cage, waiting for the day its leaves become big enough to withstand a few bunny bites without disappearing entirely into the bunny’s bowels. Actually, all my eggplants can be considered runts, because none is exactly thriving. I’d like to think it’s just because they haven’t yet reached that critical point in the summer when the lengthening roots start stimulating new growth and flowering, but I don’t know whether that will ever happen.

One of the three Anaheim pepper plants that I planted in a group beneath a crape myrtle tree simply refuses to grow. It, too, is caged, because three bites from any creature would effectively end its existence . . . not that it would matter much at this point, because I doubt the thing will ever produce a pepper. It is half the size of its sisters, grown in nearly the same conditions. I’ve been wondering, though, if a wandering tree root might be making trouble for the little plant, stealing away its nutrients. If that’s the case, it’s too late to correct the problem. I might throw some fertilizer granules around it, or I might simply give up and let it live out its days as a reminder of Why You Shouldn’t Plant Around Trees.

Essentially, runts in the garden are mistakes, flops, failures. They’re not there just because nature made them so; it’s the gardener herself who is ultimately responsible for noticing the squash vine borer, the inadequate nutrition, the infernal bunnies, or the thieving tree root. It still bothers me that I could never figure out what was going on with that tomato. The squash vine bothers me even more, of course, being dead. It’s a lost opportunity. The pepper plant deflates my self-image each time I hose it down. At times like these, it’s best to look away from the runts and just stop wondering about them. Success is a far better motivator, even if it offers less food for thought.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Monsters of the Garden

Certain plants meander along fitfully until midsummer . . . and then take over the entire garden once they hit their stride. I am speaking, naturally, of squash, melons, and cucumbers, but especially of the squash.

When I planted buttercup squash again this year, I had little hope for the long-term survival of the big, flat seeds that I pressed into the open earth. Last year’s plants, which I had started indoors in peat pots, were vigorous, thick-leaved, and about a foot and a half long when I planted them out in the garden, but they soon shriveled and yellowed in the inhospitable mulch. I kept them alive for a few weeks with successive applications of artificial fertilizers, but then the squash bugs laid eggs on them, and the young nymphs sucked all the juices out. It was the first time I’d ever dealt with those insects. In Colorado, where I grew up, I had never seen any such problem, though my family grew far too much zucchini every year.

This year, I never got around to planting zucchini. I didn’t want to plant two kinds of squash close together, because (according to the venerable Edward C. Smith) large groupings of the same kinds of plants make a sort of one-stop shop for marauding insects. I meant to prepare another flowerbed for zucchini, but I’ll admit, the motivation wasn’t very strong (not that there’s anything wrong with zucchini).

Perhaps sensing an opportunity to impress in the absence of its super-productive cousin, the buttercup squash has outgrown every other plant in the garden. Its vines have climbed sideways on my supposedly rabbit-proof garden fence, and as of this morning, the longest vine spans the length of the fence on one side. That means it’s at least ten feet long—and since it’s climbed up diagonally, it might even be longer. The two squash plants on the far side of the fence have been excellent producers, as well. There are at least four developing squash fruits, and the largest one has grown to the size of a softball.

I’ve had very little trouble with insects, except for the squash vine borer that killed one of the plants on the side of the garden nearer to the house. I’ve killed three or four adult squash bugs, but so far, I’ve seen no signs of their leathery, red-brown eggs, which they like to lay in several angled rows on the undersides of young leaves. The yellow-and-black cucumber beetles, which came by the hundreds last year, have been nearly absent—I’ve seen one striped beetle and one spotted beetle. The nasturtiums I planted next to the squash and cucumbers might be at least partly responsible for these insects’ absence, as their repellent effect is advertised nearly everywhere I’ve looked for information, but I think the general health and better nutrition of the plants also has helped. The gardening manuals say that weaker plants tend to attract heavier infestations of pests.

The watermelon and muskmelon plants have made similar advances across the flowerbeds, but the progress of the muskmelons has been checked by my archenemies, the infernal, unstoppable rabbits. The plants are too big to be seriously damaged by the nighttime nibblers, but nearly all of the ends have been clipped off with the greatest efficiency. An untutored eye, roving over those plants, might assume that the gardener herself had decided to prune those vines to keep them under control. This gardener, however, operating under the assumption that larger plants will support healthier and more numerous melons, would far prefer to have the vines wander at will.

So far, dressing the vine tips with cayenne pepper-laced vegetable oil has provided temporary relief for the plants, but the oil seems to cause the leaves to scorch in the sun, and the cayenne washes away each time the plants are watered or rained on. Gazing at last night’s damage (after a heavy rain), I felt rather hopeless. I’ll continue apply the mixture just to the ends of the plants, and I’ll stick some of the other growing tips inside the chicken-wire cages that I used to cover the young peppers and eggplants.

It pleases me to see my monsters grow over wide swaths of soil and fence, to try to train the unruly cucumbers up their trellis, and to watch the bees compete for places inside their bright yellow flowers. A few of the cucumbers are almost ready to pick. They appeared beneath the vines almost by magic and seemed to grow overnight from the size of a piece of chalk to nearly a foot long and an inch and a half in diameter. On the muskmelon plants, I have observed three swelling, furry, oblong objects, the largest of them about the size of my fist. None of the watermelon plants have produced viable fruits of any size as yet, though I see a few marble-sized objects that look promising.

Important though these fruits will be at harvest time, the expanding leaves—the many fingered, rough-looking leaves on the watermelon; the broad, slightly rippled leaves of the cantaloupe; great, smooth squash leaves approaching dinner-plate size; and the roughly triangular, dark-green, furry cucumber leaves—are what bring me joy right now. These ramblers and climbers take a lot of space and a lot of effort to grow, but every garden should have at least one monster to support the gardener’s ego and to impart to the entire project the luxuriant, almost decadent, appearance of success.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Friday, July 13, 2007

Swiss Chard: A Flavor of Its Own

When I ran out of refrigerated greens today, I decided to make a stir-fried dinner with some Swiss chard. The gardening manuals say you can start picking outer leaves off the chard plants after they reach six to eight inches in height, and a few of my plants had already grown a foot high, so it was time to sample the stuff.

I’ve read in many places that chard is something of a miracle plant. It grows tall and luxuriant through the heat of summer, long after the spinach flags and the lettuce starts to bolt. It can be eaten (they say) raw or cooked, and can serve as a replacement for spinach in many dishes. To all of that, I say “Ha!”

Lush and verdant though my plants may be, they are not at all similar to spinach, and that’s as it should be. Swiss chard is not, after all, closely related to spinach. It is a member of a beet family, a kind of great-aunt to our modern-day beets, the lone remnant from a time when beet family plants were grown for their leaves rather than their roots. While spinach is tender, chard is tough. Its leaves are much chewier than spinach leaves, and they have a much higher concentration of salt.

Since I am not among those who like to eat chewy, salty leaves raw, I prefer to cook my chard. It takes very little effort to soften those leaves and mitigate the salt flavor—just a minute or two of sautéing or steaming. Even then, though, Swiss chard tastes very little like spinach. It doesn’t have quite the same quality of sweetness mixed with bitterness. I like the flavor for itself, a slightly bitter, slightly salty taste that spurts onto the tongue, for the stems of Swiss chard retain a juicy springiness if they are cooked just until tender.

My favorite gardening manual, Home Grown: Growing What You Eat and Preserving What You Grow, by Denys de Saulles, says the individual leaves of Swiss chard should be pulled, not cut, because they bleed when cut. Accordingly, I pulled three leaves from the outer edges of three different plants, with no apparent ill effects to the plants (other than the loss of the leaves, which, if they had any feelings about the matter, they would have keenly resented). They were big, substantial leaves shaped like Chinese fans, yet their stems were still thin and elegant, unlike the hard, wide stems of the Swiss chard I had bought in grocery stores.

They are gone now, of course. I sautéed them with a section of thinly sliced kielbasa, a single clove of garlic (minced), some delicate strips of zucchini, chopped basil, and some chives, then mixed the whole stir-fry with spaghetti, olive oil, salt, and pepper. I ate the mixture in two installments, and the Swiss chard held up well after being reheated in the microwave. It’s not a miracle, but it serves well in any dish that requires something green, flavorful, and vaguely crunchy. Better yet, it looks really impressive in the garden, and the big, boxy seeds are easy to grow. If you want to look successful, plant Swiss chard (and protect it from the bunnies).

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Cayenne Pepper and the Gospel of Rotten Eggs

Anytime I make a claim to knowledge in this blog, Nature comes right back and bites a big hole in my assumptions. This morning, the melon vines seemed mysteriously shorter than they had been the night before, defying the laws of time and space. I took a closer look and saw that many of the growing tips had been bitten off, leaving mere sticks at the ends of the vines. When I examined the vines more closely still, I could see that some of the big leaves had been halved by the nighttime nibbler.

The rabbits, having decimated the bush beans I had planted as decoys during the week I was away from home, must have decided that melon plants weren’t so bad, after all. At least one of them has developed quite a taste for my melons, as I found at least ten vine ends that had suffered similar damage.

Enough is enough, I thought, and I grimly looked up information on live trapping. I didn’t relish the idea of hauling them away, considering the sorts of diseases and parasites wild animals can carry (rabies, icky fleas and ticks, bubonic plague—this last one was quite common among the prairie dogs in Colorado, where I grew up). But taking them to a nice, far-away meadow with a bean field nearby seemed like an acceptable permanent solution, if it could be managed.

Unfortunately, as I learned, it’s not legal in the state of Virginia for an ordinary mortal like me to trap a wild beast, no matter what my intentions are. I would have to be licensed. Much as I want to rid myself of bunnies, my distaste for them has not yet inspired me with the zeal that would be necessary to go through that process. Next, I looked up licensed professional trappers. There’s at least one company in my immediate area that traps small animals and takes them elsewhere. I figured, though, that the company's services (quite justifiably) would not come cheap, although its prices were not explicitly advertised on its Web site.

Some kind of rabbit repellent would be my only remaining option. Later, I stopped by a Lowe’s store to survey the options. The only item on the shelves that claimed to turn away rabbits was a product compounded of blood meal, garlic, and something called “putrescent egg solids.” Desperate though I am, I couldn’t quite stomach that one, nor could I justify coughing up twelve bucks for a mixture I could easily make at home. I can produce my own spoiled eggs quite easily, thank you very much.

I hope it won’t come to that, though. Jerry Baker, author of Terrific Tomatoes, Sensational Spuds, and Mouth-Watering Melons, gives a recipe for “Grandma Putt’s All-Purpose Varmint Repellent.” The mixture contains garlic, hot peppers, ammonia, and water, plus two eggs. You’re supposed to let it sit for three or four days before using it—“putrescent egg solids,” indeed! Again, I can’t quite see using something like that, at least not yet.

Instead, I mixed half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper (the gourmet stuff, from Penzey’s Spices, which I’ve used only sparingly over the years because a dash of it goes a long, long way) into about one-fourth cup of canola oil, then spread the mixture, using an old pastry brush, on the vine tips and some of the melon leaves. In case the marauders moved on to other dainties, I rubbed some of the oil on the leaves of my pepper plants and eggplants, many of which have outgrown their chicken-wire cages. The melons are growing so fast that I will probably have to apply this mixture many times, provided it works. If not, my faith in cayenne pepper will be shaken, and I will bend to the gospel of rotten eggs.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

First Pickings: Bibb Lettuce, Tender and Leafy

When I cut the largest head of Bibb lettuce the other day, I was surprised to see that the leaves bled a white, opaque liquid. I’ve never had lettuce that fresh, even from a farmer’s market. According to this Web site run by the George Mateljan Foundation, that milky liquid gives lettuce both its bitter flavor and its Latin name, Lactuca sativa. It is also said to be a mild narcotic, though I must say it hasn’t affected me in the least.

Bibb and Boston lettuces are usually among the most expensive varieties at the supermarket. As a result, I don’t buy those loosehead varieties as often as I do Romaine or red leaf lettuce, even though I love their tenderness and pretty, gently ruffled leaves. Now I have a whole garden full of Bibb, and I am harvesting the reward of all those mornings and evenings spent keeping an unprepossessing collection of seedlings evenly soaked.

That first lettuce head was almost too pretty to take. I made a magnificent salad of it, using locally grown tomatoes and cucumbers (my own haven’t borne fruit just yet), and some pasta shells. For dressing, I mixed some white wine with fresh lemon juice, rice vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and a few herbs from the flowerbed: dill, chives, and basil. The dressing had to be light but special enough to set off my beautiful prize, and the result was a summer meal that any oil baron or potentate would covet.

Having dealt with cabbage worms in the past, I was skeptical about growing any leafy vegetables, but the lettuce has been surprisingly undisturbed by pests. Perhaps it’s because of the radishes . . . but that’s another story. Suffice to say, those succulent, light-green whorls are gorgeous, and I feel privileged indeed to dine on them, one by lovely, sweet (and ever so slightly bitter) one.

I will have to pick them all before they bolt, for a blooming lettuce is an increasingly hard and unpalatable plant. Last year, when I let a head of Romaine bloom in late summer, it produced a remarkably tall, ugly stalk, topped by a set of mangy, yellowish flowers. Though it is a pity to take them out, go they must, for the greater good of the garden—and of me, naturally.

Labels: , ,

Monday, July 9, 2007


On the radio tonight, I heard an NPR story about the singer Adrienne Young, who is determined to spread the gospel about local and organic foods and about community gardening. That’s all well and good, but she doesn’t exactly look like a farm girl (in her photograph, at least)—her hands are too well manicured, her fingernails too long, perfect, and immaculate to ever spend much time actually touching the soil. I’m not saying she’s a hypocrite—far from it. She obviously cares about gardens and the condition of the earth, and by bringing them to the attention of her admirers and supporting the cause of seed saving, she is opening the way for many more people to come into contact with the idea of growing something on their own.

I find it strange, though, that gardens have become trendy, the latest thing to be hyped by singers. Dirt is so—well, dirty. And gardens are so full of weeds and bugs. But the weird thing about gardening, for me, is that although I have some fellow-feeling for these motives of growing food locally and not poisoning the earth, that’s not quite why I do it. Nor does it necessarily give me a peaceful feeling to be out there, looking at my plants. I’m always thinking about the next step, the next shovelful of dirt, the next foe. I do have pride in the results of my work, now that the squash and cucumbers have leaves approaching dinner-plate size, but last summer I went on caring for my plants even after they languished in the inhospitable mulch and unremitting heat.

The food, too, sometimes seems beside the point, even though some of my plants have grown to a size at which food can be harvested from them. The point is to grow and cultivate and selectively determine what plants thrive on a given space. In part, it’s a control game, and because my plants are thriving, I’m winning, for now, at least. That sounds somewhat twisted, I know, but it’s true. I like to dictate to the dirt, to tell it to push up a bean here or nurture a tomato there.

Would I recommend that everyone else grow a garden? As the Man with the Perfect Lawn says, if it were easy, everyone would do it. Gardening takes time, persistence, attention, and strength. Certainly, for those who are interested, it’s a marvelous ride. You get a new perspective on the summer itself, and you are drawn into closer proximity to the surrounding world, though not always in the most comfortable way. Spinach and peas like the cold; squash and melons love the heat. Humidity brings life-giving rain and death-dealing fungal diseases. The birds eat harmful insects, but they also snap up seeds and fruit.

So, yes, take that packet of seeds that comes with your Adrienne Young album and see if you can do something with them. Find a place to grow them. If it makes you frustrated to cater to their needs and discover their idiosyncrasies, then perhaps you’re not the gardening type. If you’re fascinated by failures as well as successes, you might get hooked on this venture, which (for good reason) was formerly the province of confirmed putterers and curmudgeons, people who mix a willingness to wait (which some might mistake for laziness) with incorrigible stubbornness.

Gardens defy the natural order, even while they affirm our position within it. Success, when it comes, is marvelous (and necessary), but the attempt itself, the ability to wring a certain strain of fertile beauty from chaos, has its own grandeur. The squash flower opens with a pomp greater than the sounding of trumpets in the imperial procession, and its issue is far more important to our continued existence.

Labels: , , , ,

Fertilizer: Grow, Damn You!

Considering how much effort we put into promoting their health and well-being, it’s no wonder some gardeners talk to their plants. I’ve caught myself now and again saying things like “Happy now?” or “Well, you look good today!” to a particularly robust specimen of vegetable life. I’ve also caught myself feeling resentful toward plants that seemingly refuse to grow at the desired rate. It’s much easier to shout “What’s wrong with you?” at the plant than to actually figure out what the plant is communicating with its stunted stem or yellowing leaves.

My lettuce, spinach, and radish seedlings gave me no end of frustration in their early weeks when they were stuck in the two-leaf stage for what seemed an inordinate length of time. I wondered if they would even survive. They had emerged vigorously, but then languished. So I went out to the garage for what remained of the bone meal and blood meal I had spread in the flowerbeds, and worked it into the top two inches of garden soil with my new cultivator.

Then I left on my week of vacation, feeling discouraged. I returned to find nearly mature radishes and lush rows of half-grown Bibb lettuce. Perhaps it was the watering technique that did it (the Man with the Perfect Lawn, who kindly watered the plants in my absence, favors deep-watering), or perhaps it was the organic fertilizer. I am inclined to favor the theory that the fertilizer contributed the most to the new growth, grateful though I am for my neighbor’s help.

The tomatoes, transplanted into the ground just before I left, had not grown much taller, but their stems were thick and strong. The Swiss chard seedlings had grown into fine plants with beautiful, arching leaves, and the onions looked—well, alive. One can never tell what those things are doing underground, even though their tops are at present unimpressive. I decided to let things alone for a while, pleased with my garden’s transition to what looked like actual viability.

Last weekend, though, I started noticing that the two buttercup squash plants on the side nearer to the house were yellowing. A few days later, while I was watering, I saw a plump squash bug climb to the top of a broad leaf to escape the downpour. It was this year’s first squash bug, an ill omen for its host. I promptly grabbed the brown bug and crunched it between my flip-flop and the garden frame. Last year, I had killed dozens of the juice-sucking insects, not including the hundred or so tiny, whitish-green squash bug nymphs I had squeezed between my fingers, all to no avail. They dried up the buttercup squash plants first before moving on to the zucchini, which lived through the summer but produced not a single fruit.

I looked for the leathery rows of squash bug eggs on the undersides of the leaves, but found none. Then I removed all the dead and withering leaves from the squash plants, to take away potential hiding places for the bugs and their nymphs. As I tugged at a yellowed leaf on the smaller of the two plants, the entire stem broke off, revealing an interior riddled with broad passageways. A squash vine borer had evaded my surveillance. The only thing to do was to dig up the second plant and discard the stem and root.

Edward G. Smith, author of The Gardener’s Bible, writes: “Once you have good soil for growing vegetables, you’ll get better yields and higher-quality vegetables if you don’t fertilize plants at all during the growing period.” I had decided to hold off on the liquid fertilizer in the hope that my organic amendments would prove adequate. But the episode with the broken-off squash plant convinced me that the squash would need all the help it could get to stave off infestation and disease. Last week, I finally hosed down the entire garden, including the flowerbeds, with a solution of 24-8-16 all-purpose inorganic plant food (that’s 24% nitrogen, 8% available phosphate, and 16% soluble potash).

For those without the blessing of pre-existing good soil, Ed recommends using fish or fish-and-seaweed emulsion or compost tea, but I hadn’t the funds to buy more organic fertilizer and I don’t have a compost pile. Last year’s artificial stuff would have to do. So I’m not an organic gardener, though I don’t douse my plants with insecticides as my neighbor does (he swears by Sevin, which he dusted liberally on his tomatoes, beans, and cucumbers). The inorganic stuff seems to have worked. Other than a couple of wilted leaves which I removed yesterday, the remaining squash plant on that side has shown no signs of weakness. It’s not quite as vigorous as the two plants on the opposite side of the garden, but its blossoms are large and profuse, and its vines are growing several inches a day. Even though the harvest is several months away, I’ll count that one (provisionally) a success.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Desperate Measures

Well, I was wrong, and I might as well admit it at the start. Rabbits will take a nibble of just about anything, it seems, and they will certainly eat most of a tender young eggplant or pepper plant, given the opportunity. They don’t care for melons, cucumbers, and squash, but one muskmelon plant had a single broad leaf half bitten away the night after I transplanted it into the flowerbed.

At first, as I have chronicled, the peas and beans were decimated by these creatures. That’s when I put up the fence. It worked—for one or two nights. I don’t know how they found their way back in, for I did my best to see that there were no gaps at the bottom, but they did, and the new beans lost their heads on a nightly basis. Outside the main garden, I had planted the eggplants and peppers, and two mornings later found one of the larger eggplants reduced to a single sprouting leaf, while several of the peppers were leafless on one side.

I contained the problem by placing plastic plant pots over the larger plants and plastic Dixie cups (of which, luckily, I possessed a nearly endless supply) over the smaller ones each night. Putting those cups on the plants each night was hard work, but it did the job. Rabbits are good at getting past barriers, but it seems that they’re just not smart enough to figure out what’s underneath an upside-down cup.

Soon, however, the carnage moved back into an unexpected quarter of the main garden. Peter Rabbit fancied a forbidden bite of lettuce. The invaders in my garden ignored the puny lettuce and spinach seedlings, but the Swiss chard, a tough, leafy member of the beet family, was disappearing, one handsome, three-inch seedling at a time. I spent a few nights covering each plant in that long row of chard with its own cup. But I was about to go on vacation for a week, and although I had arranged for a neighbor to water the plants, I knew no one who would willingly cover dozens of plants with cups each night and remove the cups in the morning. I felt rather foolish about the entire venture myself.

Stronger measures were necessary, I decided. Back to the hardware store I drove, grumbling all the way. I brought home a roll of chicken wire three feet wide and fifty feet long, the only size the store still had in supply. Although I should have been preparing for the next morning’s eleven-hour drive to my conference in Tennessee, I instead stayed up past midnight hacking at the chicken wire, holding each section of roll open with a chair on one side and a piano bench on the other while I clipped the wires. When I finished cutting through a section of wire, it would snap back into a curved position, scraping my arms and legs.

From the smaller wire sections, I fashioned cylindrical cages for the peppers and eggplants. For the row of Swiss chard and onions, I cut a nine and a half–foot length of wire. This larger section rolled and buckled until I manhandled (or womanhandled) it into submission. I straightened four wire clothes hangers and threaded them through the wire at regular intervals, then, with much difficulty and swearing, I curved the entire piece longwise into a row cover.

Early the next morning, I covered my seedlings and maneuvered the row cover into place (muttering many hard oaths the entire while). The row cover didn’t fit the ground exactly, so on its exposed side (away from the fence) I shoveled a few inches of dirt from between the garden rows.

None of this made my subsequent driving trip any easier, but at least I had peace of mind. I had awakened that morning dreaming that I was handing an eggplant to a fellow named Itai (an Israeli name, I think, but the word coincidentally means “ouch” in Japanese) whom I had met at journalism school and who had lived down the hall from me. The dream was disturbing, because I had no reason to believe my worthy former colleague would care for the plant. My rather quixotic last stand against rabbits at least convinced me that I had done all I could for the garden. Though success was not guaranteed, the garden would have to hold its own against Nature’s fury for the next five days.

Labels: , , ,