After decades of vegetable gardening, I have finally come to a stunning conclusion: Nature does not want me to be a vegetable gardener.
I’m not quite sure why. Maybe Nature hates me. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been hated by something other than a person or animal; plumbing, for example. I’ve never been able to get along with plumbing.
Or, maybe, Nature just has a really sick and twisted sense of humor.
I started off, as most gardeners do, full of hope. That’s one of the things I love about gardening. You can’t put plants and seeds in the ground without a big helping of optimism. As you till the earth, your head swims with images from those seed catalogs you pored over all winter. Your mind flashes forward to harvest time and you see yourself coming in from the garden, laden with treasures as your happy family cheers you, the Vegetable King. Or Queen. It’s an equal opportunity delusion.
You work to maintain your garden against weather, pests and freeloaders (I personally have been keeping a colony of squirrels well-provided with tomatoes), and against the odds the plants flourish briefly and your fantasy remains alive. Then reality sets it.
This year, of course, reality set in more harshly than usual, thanks to the drought. Gardens were exempt from the watering ban, which offset the damage for a while, but the continued stress of temperatures in the mid-300s eventually proved too much.
(Which brings me once again to that business about “at least it’s a dry heat,” which I heard all July. So what? You roast turkeys in dry heat.)
So with all the dry (turkey) heat, plants were forced to use all their precious energy not to produce fruits and vegetables, but to stay alive. And in a lot of cases it was just too much.
Some of my fellow gardeners pulled up their plants and set their sights on next year, but I’m not that smart. I kept watering and feeding and hoping that my efforts would be rewarded.
But Nature seems to have other ideas. Its cruel sense of humor has dashed my dreams of bounty in all but two areas: zucchini and eggplant – which I am sure Nature finds just hilarious.