That’s really all you can say to utter chaos, which is what a lot of vegetable gardens look like at the end of the season. Let’s face it; many of them look like it near the beginning of the season as well. On the edges of the garden you find beautifully manicured lawns. Meanwhile, the fencing and anti-deer pie pans that surround the garden plot are doing an excellent job of protecting, thistles, dandelions, plantain, and about 30 additional very prolific and deep rooted weeds. Could there really have been tomato, cucumber, and pepper plants in that mess? Wait! That might be an okra plant! Yep, with extremely tough and old produce attached to it. Maybe the seeds can be used for next year?
By July, you tend to forget the excitement that accompanied spring; the plans that were drawn and executed; the neat little rows of veggies that sprouted to life; the first gathering of radishes. Yes, the deer that ate off the tops of the peas dampened the spirit for a short time, but the distinct smell of the tomato leaf quickly enlivened it once again. By July, however, pickings are becoming more bothersome. You have already weeded the garden three times and mulching with leaves was not as successful as you had originally hoped. Squash bugs have eradicated the hundreds of blooming fruit that had excited you weeks earlier. Blossom end rot is showing up on tomatoes again and you are out of Epsom salt. The ground is hard and dry and the heat is burning the pepper plants. The heat and gnats are also keeping you inside.
It gets so that you can hardly bring yourself to walk out to the garden. Every time you glimpse its deterioration, you berate yourself with thoughts of what could have been. Neglect is the cause of much guilt. By September you wonder if you will even have a garden next year. Just in case, you better pull up and burn the tomato plants, compost the other plants, and plow all those weeds under. You think about enriching the soil with leaves and horse manure, but never get around to it before the ground freezes. The winter cover crop, a great idea, is never executed.
For those who were diligent the entire growing season, know that you are envied. Know that there are many out there who want to be like you. Know that your gardens are seen by those who then go home and weep over the state of theirs. But take heart, discouraged gardener, winter is coming, with its cold, dreary, short days. And during those long nights sitting by the fire, the itch to grow something will get stronger and stronger. It might start with the first seed catalog that comes in the mail. Or maybe it was using up the last of the canned green beans that did it. Whatever triggered the thoughts, new plans begin to form. Grow boxes would look great outside the back window and would make watering a whole lot easier. The existing garden should be expanded so that there’s room for a couple rows of corn. Maybe straw would work better than leaves when thinking about mulch…