Lazy Organic Gardener: The Unbearable Lightness of Being Behind
John Byrne Barry on
July 9, 2009 at
One of the keys to being a successful lazy gardener -- by that I mean having a pretty good garden without doing too much work -- is feeling comfortable always being behind. There's always more work to do, and for some people, that adds stress to their already stressful lives.
I'm not sure if it's a virtue or a flaw, but I'm pretty good at sitting on the deck with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, seeing tasks that need to be done, and not doing them.
Feeling comfortable being behind is a useful coping mechanism outside the garden as well. I try to do that at work, to stay sane, and it works to a point. I do have real deadlines where other people are expecting something from me, or maybe I'm the one who imposed the deadline. Either way, that's why they call it work.
Not so the garden. No bosses in the garden except nature and, in my sunny backyard in temperate Berkeley, nature is awfully kind. I need to add water and pull weeds, but you're definitely working with nature, not against it. Plants want to grow, after all, so I let it happen.
I got home on Sunday night after five days at Echo Lake in the central Sierra, one sunny day in paradise after another, and it did not escape my notice how gorgeous it was up there in the meadows and mountains where there's no one tending the garden. When the trees fall, they stay where they've fallen and then eventually decay. When the wildflowers have peaked, no one cuts off the deadheads, they just fall off naturally.
But a garden is different. I'm trying to grow some vegetables. There aren't any wild tomatoes sprouting in the Sierra.
I put in an hour before dark on Sunday evening, mostly weeding. A little harvesting. I noticed the raspberries have stopped producing, though there are new blossoms, so there will be another batch later this summer. After almost a month of picking dozens of berries a day, I went away for five days and came back to only four or five ripe berries.
There's basil and squash to harvest -- here's what I picked for dinner.
But the weeds. Well, hand me a fork. I've got some humble pie to wolf down. Over the past few months, I've been saying that easy plants are essential to being a lazy gardener. But here in midsummer, when the living is easy and there's not a whole heck of a lot of work to do in the garden, some of these so-called easy plants are turning into weeds. The morning glory especially can send out tendrils that grow a foot a week and twist like a snake around steps, hoses, whatever. Now they're easy to yank out, but left unchecked they'd probably smother most of the garden. You can see the morning glory and ivy attacking the hose bib below.
Meanwhile, my lime tree is bearing fruit. I had a key lime tree for six years that never bore a single lime, so I dug it out and got a new one, a bear's lime, which I was told by the guy at Spiral Gardens just a few blocks from my house, should produce well in this climate. So far, so good.
And the sunburst squash are not only good to eat, but beautiful to watch grow. I hear you can eat the blossom as well, but I haven't tried it.
And lastly, a couple weeks ago, I wrote about my two tomato experiments
, one of which was planting them in a raised bed made from shrubs and sticks and rotten logs with dirt and compost piled on top. You can't tell the height of these tomato plants from the photo below, but they're about seven feet high — they've outgrown the tomato cages. So I have to assume the roots like the loose soil created by piling up the brush. There plants are twice the height of any of the others in the yard, some of which are planted in excellent soil that I've been adding amendments to for years.
Only small green tomatoes so far. In a few weeks, before the end of July, I'm guessing I'll have my first ripe one.