August Slump

It's August and the motivation to get out and enjoy the garden has dwindled. It's not the heat this summer that is deterring me (since temperatures are actually a bit below average). I think it may be the recent invasion of voles (apparently the last year of carnage wasn't enough) or just the jungle-like look the garden is taking on. Weeds grow faster than I can pull them (didn't I just remove this crab grass a week ago?) and some things are growing in places I never planted them (is that a rose of sharon in the middle of the geum?)

The vegetables are lackluster this year. It's mid-August and I've gotten three Juliet tomatoes. I have a bunch of green tomatoes, but not much else. My only crop that seems to have done well is garlic. (At least there is that.) The onion transplants that I grew from seed have either perished or have remained small. The basil is stunted. The peas were prolific, but I didn't get to pick them in time, so they went to seed. The birds stole the blueberries and raspberries because I didn't provide appropriate netting. The eggplant are not growing as well as they should be.

This is the problem with August in the garden. It turns into a whiney account of everything that falls short of expectations. At least for me.

I also hate the overwhelming feeling of throwing my hands up and wishing to speed ahead and start over next year with a better plan. It always seems like anything is possible in March when the crocuses are just poking out of the soil. This will be the year my garden will flourish, I always find myself believing. But then Mother Nature sends a late frost or a monsoon or perhaps not any rain at all, and I find myself scrambling to make it work well anyhow.

But is there a better plan? Because no matter how much I question why I am growing vegetables when I could easily just buy a few more at the farmer's stand when I pick up my weekly CSA bag, January will arrive with its mailbox full of seed catalogs which will woo me into spending too much money on too many seeds that I don't have enough room to plant.

Note to future self: You must plant all the leftover seeds from this year and last before you even open a seed catalog next winter.

Yes, an empty threat.

I know gardening takes a certain amount of blind faith from the outset. And gardeners must be some of the most stubborn people there are, because no matter what the setbacks are, there is always that belief that eventually, if only for a day, my garden will resemble one of those pictorial essays shown off in Better Homes and Gardens. (Which is one of my long-term goals. Emphasis on long-term.)

But seriously, am I wasting my time? Does my property just not get enough sun to make a real go of it? Should I just stick to flowers? (The area that gets the best sunlight is my black-top driveway.)

On the bright side - there has to be at least one - the pear tree is bending under the weight of many soon-to-ripen pears. And now I know not to pick plums before they have ripened on the tree. (I picked six pounds of Shiro plums too early this year and made plum sauce instead of plum jam due to a lack of natural pectin.)

I know gardening isn't suppose to be easy. When I see a nice garden and then learn the owner has hired a grounds crew to maintain it, I lose interest and respect for it. Because it's easy enough to throw enough money at a problem to make it go away. (And it's bad to start thinking of the garden as a problem, right?) But to actually be out there, working with my hands to make the garden a beautiful place to be, that's what I aspire to.

It's just hard to remember that in August.


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