Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cultivation

My (new) roommate and friend pointed out that we needed an introvert night after several days of both hard work and revelry, including moving her stuff from her old studio apartment into my house.

She is so right. So here we sit, in the same house, within sight of each other, but silent. Later we might do pedicures and talk about nothing but frivolity and "what if's."I don't do a very good job of planning my own introvert time, and I'm too easily swayed to activity. It's easier than dealing with my own head. However, there are a few times and places where I can really find the head space and be alone with my thoughts. The garden is one of them. In fact, it was thinking while gardening one Saturday that somehow ended in a determination to blog regularly for a while (why yes, "regularly" is a term that here means "sporadic, but optimistic".)

Today I came home from work and immediately headed out to the garden. Gardens require maintenance. It's been warm lately, which means I have to water, or ask one of the roommates to water if I have to be gone. I have to pick things. Lettuce is a bumper crop right now, and the herbs will go to seed in a blink if I don't pick them. I found 3 large cucumbers on that vine the other day, which was a total surprise! I made them into dill pickles on Sunday, of which accomplishment I am inordinately proud.

Other than watering though, the main thing about a garden that takes work is the issue of pests. There are not many pests in my garden. There are the requisite slugs and bugs of our part of the world, but overall I've been lucky so far. But one pest is always there, the one that takes the most maintenance: weeds.

So many many people far wiser than me have compared weeds to sin in our lives, that it's a cliched metaphor, to put it mildly. But I can't help but have the metaphor slap me in the face when I've been away from the garden for a mere day, and I walk into it thinking I've been doing so well with taking care of it, only to find the darn green things have popped up overnight. I have a lot of questions about weeds. Why do they grow so fast, when my poor basil has to be so babied and pampered with the perfect amounts of sun and water and plant food? I swear, I will dutifully pull weeds in one patch, turn around, and immediately spy 3 or 4 more weeds in the midst that I must have missed.

Weeds are tricky. I have one kind of weed that has sharp prickers if it gets too big. When I reach down to grasp it to pull it up, I sticks me and I end up with a looser grasp, letting me pull off a few of the leaves, but leaving the roots untouched. Some weeds do the same thing without prickers, keeping their leaves loosely attached so you can almost never get the root out.

I have one other specially recurring weed that has a very tiny root system, and sprawls out lots and lots of viney little arms above the ground. These are very distracting and it's hard to find the center of the plant. Each arm will detach with the least pressure, but the others will all still be there. You have to go very slowly, gathering up all of the vines in the plant, finding the center of it, and then pull it out slowly.

Weeds require constant maintenance, AND they will almost never be gone. they are always there, waiting just below the surface, for the least and tiniest opportunity to spring into existence and choke out the good plants. This constant battle with nature is what we have come to call cultivation, the process of developing; promotion of growth or strength. In gardening, I work to promote the growth of some plants, and to inhibit the growth of others.

Once I thought that in the end, it would be the fruit that proved the gardener's wisdom in picking the right plants to cultivate. But then I realized that the gardener doesn't really have any control over if the right plants actually produce fruit. I have a crazy cucumber plant in my garden, but I also have a pepper plant and a lavender plant that don't seem to have grown at all, no matter how much plant food, water, and sun they get.

So I make dill pickles, and enjoy them. I won't worry too much about the rest. But I will keep pulling the weeds.

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