Usually very well despite my efforts, or lack thereof. My garden always grows. So do the weeds. So do the beans. Always the beans. My family gets tired of fresh green beans. My next door neighbor shoots them at me with a sling shot after I leave a plastic grocery bag of beans on his doorstep (this is the same neighbor who sneaks up behind me with an aerosol air horn and blasts it in my ear while I am mowing the lawn, then offers me a beer when I am done with the lawn). Beans, beans, beans. They are indeed magical fruit. Just ask my neighbor. His wife calls him the magical fruit.
It’s time to get my garden plot ready to plant. Last year it was quite a mess. I planted the usual green beans and a few other plants that didn’t grow, but mostly it was weeds. It was a very hot, dry summer and terrible for plants. Only those plants that have a strong desire to live survived — my bush beans. They proliferated like the bunnies who fought for the plants early in the season. I am trying not to dwell on the lack of success I had last year. I got what I put into the garden, which is not much. It’s Spring and hope fills the heart of this man. There are farmers in my blood line. I must plant. I must dig. I have no choice.
What should I plant this year? Beans? Likely so. The one year my garden escaped the mockery of my family was the year I successfully planted and harvested cantaloupe. That year I started the plants inside the house, not really a popular move with my wife. She didn’t appreciate the tray of dirt sitting on top of our refrigerator in a plastic bag. It was the warmest spot in the house and out of the way. When the plants were ready, I stuck them in the ground next to the fence, training them up the chicken wire I had nailed to the fence. As the fruit grew on the vines, the cantaloupe grew large inside the chicken wire, separating from the vines as they ripened. The melons were large and sweet.
I have never been able to get cantaloupe vines to grow again.
Marigolds are also a favorite of mine. Many years I have planted rows of the large variety around the edges of my garden. The serves two purposes — it drives away the bugs and it gives the bunnies a place to hide. Not that Nick, our sheltie, would do anything about the bunnies. He hates birds but I think the bunnies have paid him off. Every year I tussle with the bunnies, especially early in the season while the plants are only a few inches tall. Peter loves the tender new plants. If I don’t protect the garden with chicken wire from below the ground and up, the rabbits chew the plants down to the ground, leaving a little sprig sticking up where the plant had once grown.
And then there is Chicago weather. Often we don’t get warm enough weather for plants to grow until late May or even mid-June. I don’t usually have the time to make cold frames and that really is the only way for a garden to succeed in this climate. There are plenty of people here who do that and I salute their gardens jealously come June.
This year my focus will be to replace all the hosta that the varmints wiped out during the winter a year ago. We had several beds of hosta against the house in our backyard the last 17 years, eaten by hungry skunks in one cold winter. They dug up the roots all around our house. I’m thinking that marigolds and some other kind of annual will replace the hosta. I may plant more flowers this year. Each year I have added annuals. We’re starting to get a collection now that Mir leaves the flower beds alone — she decides to help me out by weeding and pulls up the flowers instead of the weeds!
And so hope Springs eternal. Let’s hope I am able to share some garden blogs this summer!