Rock Bottom Line || Hope springs eternal for a Whidbey gardener

Posted in Blogs, Gardens

January 13, 2016

It was dark and dank outside, one of those January days on our Rock when I wish we really had bought that condo in Palm Springs, locked up and flown south, like most birds have the good sense to do. But, as I gazed out my window at the wet desolation, my mind would not stop pondering my vegetable garden.

Ah, that wonderful, fertile, 20-foot-by-40-foot space where I spent such happy hours with the sun overhead and my hands in the dirt in spring, summer and fall. Oh, the tomatoes! And the sweet Walla Walla onions! And the Yukon Gold potatoes! And the zucchini, snow peas, beets, cauliflower and cucumbers! All just fond memories now, of course, though some remain embalmed in Mason jars and freezer bags.

I bundled up in flannel, fleece and wool, pulled on the waterproof boots and strolled out to the muddy, half-frozen garden. The winter wind and rain had not been kind. Half stuck in the mud lay the forlorn little ceramic plaque that had been tossed off the post where it once had proudly hung. “God bless this garden and all who enter in,” it reads. Indeed, divine blessings are needed now more than ever.

Muddy Plaque

Over in the corner, I spotted the broken fan blade of the cute garden whirligig that had succumbed after five nasty, windy Whidbey winters. The old sailor in the little red rowboat, so salty with his white beard and pipe and his yellow Nor’easter hat and coat, had pulled his last oar.

I saw the gray, lifeless remnants of the three zucchini plants that kept producing squash even as frost encroached. I blamed myself for not uprooting them and giving them a proper burial in the compost pile, as I had with all the other vegetable plants. I looked in amazement at the many weeds that had sprouted, despite the cold weather, since last I applied the hoe. Why is it that these weeds can grow so heartily even when everything else is dead or dormant?

Broken Fan Blade

In the other corner, I saw the plastic basket I had used to harvest the garden’s abundance and cart it into the house. I had forgotten to take it in, so it filled with rainwater during December’s deluge and then froze into a solid block of ice.

Even as I surveyed the devastation, however, something in me began to stir. Next year, I’ll plan more potatoes and fewer beans. More carrots, fewer zucchini. Yes, and maybe I’ll add a raised bed or two, and some drip irrigation hoses. Something about a garden always makes hope spring eternal.

But first things first, I thought. Send the lawn mowers out to get serviced. If you don’t book that service early on the Rock, you may have hay before your mower is ready. Prune the fruit trees now. The hard frost has made them dormant, but who knows how long that will last given the changing climate. And if you don’t prune, your apples may be the size of prunes.

Put on the gloves and get out there and pull those weeds, then add some compost and till that soil. It’s never too early or too cold. You want a good harvest? Get off your lazy winter butt and get started.

Ah, all that day-dreaming really felt good. It’s so hard to get motivated during this dreary time of year. I feel so much better now. I’m eager for spring to be sprung.

Once upon a time, Harry Anderson made an honest living as a reporter, editor and columnist at the Los Angeles Times. He now lives in central Whidbey, where he spends his time gardening and ruminating on things that interest him.  (photos by the author)


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