Each year, I attempt to grow a garden, and inevitably I engage in overambitious planting. I start off most assiduously, but as the summer progresses the neatly tended, weedless rows degenerate into wild (and often underwatered) tangles. Despite this, the harvest always includes a frightening quantity of tomatoes.
Our neighbor is a retired Sicilian, and his backyard looks like a small patch of southern Italy. No weeds dare grow in his yard, and his plants are lush and productive. I have chard envy.
His tomatoes are carefully trained up long poles, trimmed into strict compliance with his will. They tower over my bushy, uncontrolled specimens. In the picture to the right, my tomatoes are lower and in the front, mixed with asparagus fronds. The asparagus is in its second year and has been growing vigorously. I’m looking forward to next spring’s harvest.
The pepper harvest has been quite satisfactory, though I still need to figure out what to do with all these habaneros. The second major crop is ready for harvest.
This year, I managed to keep up with oppressing the weeds and picking the ripe fruit through July, earning approving comments. Inevitably, though, work and school absorbed my attention, and it doesn’t take long for tidiness to transform into a near-jungle.
Two years ago I purchased a single purple fennel plant. It grew happily for a season and died among a few green plants that sprang up on their own. Last year, I had quite a few of both the green and purple varieties that grew themselves without any interference on my part, which made me happy. They’re quite attractive and tasty (great for salads, grilled fish, or my favorite coriander-crusted scallops in fennel broth).
This year, the fennel has decided it is in charge. I didn’t fully understand its agenda and let the plants grow as they wished. After they reach a certain height, their stems become woody and more or less impossible to uproot. They are now noticeably taller than I am. If I touch them, fennel seeds rain down on the soil, sealing my fate for next year.
Despite the late season, a few new fennel plants have started to pop up. The specimen shown at left can be seen menacing my thyme.
My neighbor may not approve, but an overgrown herb garden is a wonderful thing. My role in tending them is mostly to act as a peacekeeper, setting boundary disputes that arise. I planted a scraggly frond of tarragon two years ago, and it has grown into a monstrous near-bush. I’ve had to tie it back to restrain its depredations against the sage plant that can be seen behind it.
Perennial herbs are quite satisfactory, and I’ve had particular luck growing sage, an herb that is both attractive and tasty. Three different kinds can be seen in the picture at left, which I think turned out quite well. (In fact, I’ve cropped a bit of it to use as a header for this site, livening up my depressingly bland template.)
For the moment, the garden’s vigor is subsiding. Soon, I’ll pull out the dying tomato and pepper plants and compost them for use during the next planting. I’ll enjoy the respite from knowing that I really should get around to weeding. Perhaps next year I’ll manage to plant only a reasonable number of tomatoes and to keep everything tended at least through August—but where’s the fun in that?