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The Last Windrow: Expecting more from the garden

Gardens are sometimes a lot like people, you sometimes expect a lot more out of them than they are willing to give. This year, my garden was trying, but somehow failed to equal the record output of last year.

Every garden starts with a clean slate in the spring. My plot looked brown and even as I made the last pass with my tiller before planting. I cut some new row marker stakes for my wife and we planted the peas, beans, carrots, beets and corn in neat rows with nary a weed poking it’s top through the topsoil. I think that was the high point for our garden this year.

Everything was going well until we had eight inches of rain in two days. What was a gently flowing brook near one of our gardens became a raging torrent, flooding my mother-in-law’s lawn and inundating my corn patch. The young corn looked yellow and pale as it struggled to get above water level.

With the soil saturated, I could not get ahead of the weed crop that seemed not to mind the flood. Quack grass, creeping Jenny, foxtail and other various weeds came forth in abundance as I watched helpless from the sidelines. Fortunately, the flood receded just in time for my tiller to become active, but I never did catch up with the weed crop. We did get a decent crop of sweet corn, cucumbers and tomatoes, but the beets went down the drain along with the carrots, and the squash barely put on a blossom.

My second garden lies far above the flood plain and there the potatoes went into the ground. After last year’s thousand pound of reds and russets, I was again making plans for a bumper crop. Little did I know that just below the surface lay 10 million potato bugs and evidently this was their year because once my plants were lush and green, the little striped beetles appeared and warred with me until I dug my crop just last week. A sad sight. Instead of three wheelbarrows full of russets, I barely garnered one and the reds were not much better. The patch will have to be moved next year.

But, being a farm kid, I’m used to depression and I’m also always optimistic about the coming year. I know that new seed catalogs will re-appear in my mailbox any day now. It will be a treat to sit inside our house this winter as the snow flies around our chimney and I dream about next year’s garden and the bounty it will be bound to produce.

I’ll soon forget my devastated potato patch, the flooded cornfield, the quack grass growing among the bean plants. There will be no pictures of such things in the garden catalogs, only full heads of cabbage, smut free corn and bug-less potato plants.

You just expect more from a garden than it is sometimes capable of producing. Kind of like some people.

See you next time. Okay?