Summer here in the North East seems to be slipping away more quickly than I expected. Warm weather and billowy skirts have given way to cooler air and fall colors. While I contend with the onset of autumn, I find myself looking back on this year's planting season with pride and a few regrets. When we plant our garden each spring, we hope for healthy, bushy plants that grow strong and tall and produce endless amounts of ripe and delicious fruit. We look forward to the joy of the harvest with anticipation as we grow our seedlings, fertilize our young plants and then watch them get heavy with veggies. We want our garden to be a perfect specimen, free of bugs and pests, and highly productive. We want the weather to comply. It can't be too hot or too cold; there should be ample sun; and we want enough rain to aid the harvest but not to drown the crops.
Of course, wanting the perfect garden is like asking for children who never get an earache or teenagers who don't rebel.The joy of gardening always comes hand in hand with the pain of its imperfections. Each year we endure aphid infestations, hornworms or powdery mildew. We deal with the disappointment of crops planted with such love and care that never grow any fruit at all (my cucumbers come to mind.) And of course, we can't control the weather. This year blistering heat scorched the lettuce, killed the blueberry bushes and stunted the basil (not to mention the impatiens.) Last year, endless rain caused tomato blight in gardens and small farms across the North East. Every year, wind storms knock our pots over, crushing fruit, and the occasional heavy rain causes nearly ripe tomatoes to burst right on the vines.
Yet, at the end of the day, I know we'll keep taking our chances and planting again season after season, because the joy of tasting that heirloom tomato or roasting fresh peppers and eggplant grown by hand makes it all worthwhile. What about you? Did your garden behave this summer? Would you ever give up?