I’m using a green notebook as a garden journal this season, with schedules for mowing, watering and weeding; monthly lists for planting vegetables and flowers, and childlike diagrams of the varieties of our tomato plants, carrots and pumpkins. I’m also keeping a running list of tasks, including fertilizing the pumpkin plants, transplanting purple Canterbury bells, cutting back bloomed-out perennials, giving the out-of-control cat-mint plant a mohawk haircut, and pruning the lower branches of the apple trees.
I’m pruning the trees because of my new relationship with Mo, our magical mowing machine. My husband, Lee, fractured his foot this spring and has been restricted from his normal lawn and garden work, so I’ve learned to use our new, battery-powered mower. Maneuvering around our three lawns with Mo has given me a huge boost of confidence and a new attitude about low-hanging branches.
For all the decades that Lee has taken care of our lawn, I’ve protested whenever he wanted to prune the apple trees. He said the web of branches scratched his face and made it hard to see where he was mowing. “We’ll lose the apples on those branches, and then we won’t have enough for pies,” I argued. But every other year, our Gravenstein trees produce enough apples to make and freeze six pies and many pints of sauce. A few lopped-off branches won’t leave us pieless.
Now that I’m the designated mower, I’ve become a madwoman with the pruning shears. Mo and I need a clear path around the base of the trees so, if a low-hanging branch smacks me in the face or blocks my vision, it’s off with its head. After I whacked off the apple branches, I eyed the quartet of shaggy bushes on our street corner. Without regular trimming, those shrubs can obstruct drivers from seeing cross traffic. So I snapped my pruning shears a few hundred times, and the newly crewcut bushes shaped up and stood at attention.
My garden journal also reminds me to take preventive care. In June, I planted two beds of pumpkins, but added rich, homemade compost to only one bed. The plants with the high-calorie diet look dark green and perky, but the pumpkins in the low-cal bed have turned an unflattering shade of pistachio. They also seem to wilt more quickly, even though I water the two beds equally. So I’ve enriched the soil around the puny pumpkins, with a goal of keeping all the potential jack-o’-lanterns alive. Halloween is less than four months away.
I’m also noting quicksilver moments of joy, when seeds actually sprout or a small, green tomato appears on its vine. Lee recently looked out the window and saw me dancing and pumping my fist. I was celebrating the newly emerging carrots, fragile as filaments of green silk. Every day I also stand at the lettuce patch and count the new seedlings. After three weeks: sixteen seedlings. Awesome.
Benjamin BadKitten, my chief garden staffer, is ignoring competition from the neighbors’ cat, which seems determined to send Ben to the unemployment line. I’ve seen it marking its territory at the base of the flowering planters on our patio and “amending” the dry soil under our hawthorn tree. That cat’s unprofessional disregard for basic standards of garden hygiene makes it a nonstarter as chief staffer. BBK remains on the payroll — and on the front porch, napping.
Sydney Craft Rozen hopes her green notebook will help her work some magic in the vegetable beds this year. Email her at email@example.com