We have been gone for three weeks, walking across England. Late June and early July is not a bad time to leave Corvallis or the garden. I missed the trash piles of students moving out, the last few grey rainy days, and the end of cherry and pea season. Other than that, the garden was all in and growing, but not producing anything I had to process for winter. That being said, it did grow while I was gone and the innocent weedy plants, like nasturtiums and amaranth, which I often leave to keep the insects happy, took over several beds.
I have been hacking back for two days now. I have a system, developed over the years, for such occasions. I start in the back bed, weeding, transplanting, mulching, repairing the hoses, tying up the vines-- whatever needs to be done for that bed—and then I trim out the grass around it and move onto the next. It is very efficient. All of the tools are out at once, which reduces the wandering around factor. I can always tell where I left off, if I am called away for a meeting or phone call, because the bed is not trimmed out yet. There’s immediate gratification that comes with seeing a neatly mulched and trimmed bed, even if it is only the first, that would not happen if I weeded all of them at once. And it reduces the number of blisters I get from too much aggressive trimming. When I have finished one side of the garden, I turn on the soaker hoses and move over to the other side, watching for leaks and sprays as I work. When the back gardens are done, I move to the front.
While I was working this morning, I was very aware of all of the other creatures that use my veg garden. The few old peas that were left on the vines had been nibbled out; someone had gnawed through the seams and eaten the peas. I found a small rodent nest behind the lovage, where someone else had dragged a few stalks of ceremonial wheat in for a snack. There was a small pile of possum poop in the back of the potato bed and a young pumpkin hidden in the grass between the beds, half eaten. As I trimmed, I encountered ants and spiders, pillbugs and the occasional slug. Honeybees and bumblebees where disturbed when I pulled out a huge borage plant. I could see where Bunzilla had chomped on a low hanging kale leaf and where the cats had been napping under the rhubarb. Fortunately, the chickens had been too interested in dropped cherries a few days ago when they were loose to wreck havoc on any plants, although there was signs of a dust bath up near the house. Life clearly goes on in the back yard when I am not around, perhaps even more so.
The back garden in now pretty much in order. The vines are tamed, the potatoes mulched, the beds trimmed for the summer. There will not be another spurt of rampant growth that will need to be reigned in again; the season is about to dry out, the grass is ready to go dormant for the summer, and I will be home to keep an eye on things. The leeks and parsnips are breathing a sigh of relief, but I don’t know about the other living creatures.
Summer Salad-- good for a warm day when you do not feel like cooking
Chop half a red onion and a couple of stalks of celery. Toss in the bowl. Add a can of garbanzo beans and a can of tuna. Toss with about a quarter of a cup of mayo, a gulp of red wine vinegar, some pepper and chopped basil (fresh is nice, but dried will do). Arrange on a bed of lettuce. You can get fancy and add hard-boiled eggs or sliced tomatoes around the edges. Weirdly enough, french fries are a nice touch.