August 14, 2009

Mom's Garden

I like to think that maybe Mom hit the lottery, went on a luxury cruise around the Mediterranean and is, at this writing, fending off the attentions of some superannuated lothario on the Côte d’Azur. The alternative is too sad to contemplate.

Perhaps I should explain.

Rather than cut down a dozen trees on our property, fend off the deer and figure out how to fix the rototiller, my wife and I have a 20 foot by 60 foot plot in our town’s community garden. The town tills up the land, marks off the plots, supplies a large pile of manure and unlimited water. We fence it, plant it and keep it neat. For this we pay the bargain price of $40 a year. Last year, we harvested produce worth, conservatively, ten times that figure.

Anyone can sign up for a plot, first-come-first-served, and no gardening experience is required. In point of fact, once you’re there, you can get all the advice you need, much of it first-rate if you talk to the right people. You would think that with such a payoff ratio – plus the lure of indescribably fresh tomatoes, basil and corn – every plot would be lovingly tended now that everything is ripening.
Alas, there is summer gardening and there is… human nature. Of the 40 plots in the community garden, at least six are abandoned. Some still have fencing but other have shed even that pretense. The gardener gave up with all the rains of June or else they came back from those two weeks in California and discovered that the weeds had overwhelmed their little plot.
Which leads me back to Mom’s Garden. It’s the first one you see as you enter the community garden; a 20x30 plot. A four-foot fence went up in early May and, attached to the fence, a colorful, hand-made sign announcing that this is ‘Mom’s Garden’. Inside, a garden was laid out and planted and a weather-proof chair appeared. For a few brief weeks, it all looked perfect.

Then, the weeds began to sprout and, worse, the grass. The community garden was carved out of a hay field and is still surrounded by acres of greenery that is mowed just twice a year. If you don’t continually pull the grass, it takes over with a vengeance.

The rules of the community garden state that a garden plot that is not worked by the first week of June can be turned over to someone on the waiting list. Well, Mom’s Garden had a fence and some seedlings appearing, plus that chair. But, by early July, the grass was knee high. This week, the grass was chest-high and seed heads were ripening. The chair may or may not still be in there somewhere.

Perhaps Mom’s Garden was an unwanted gift from the kids. The kind of thing that seemed like a great idea at the time, except that no one bothered to consult Mom about whether she wanted to spend her summer hoeing and picking off bean beetles (“But we made you such a cute sign…”). If that’s the case, the kids ought to get to the garden once a week and show Mom some respect by weeding the thing.

Personally, though, I like the Mediterranean cruise explanation.

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