Yesterday I tore up the garden. This entails pulling up the old tomato plants, putting away the cages, chopping a few stubborn weeds out of the ground with a hoe. I left the okra plants, which are still producing, and one squash plant, producing one last dumbbell-shaped autumnal squash. I discovered a wild rose had migrated from a nearby bed and was poking a carmine bloom up from the dirt.
If I were a poet like Keats, I could express the melancholy loveliness of the morning. The sun came in beams from behind a screen of trees, and the air was cool. The garden had represented a spring of hope and a summer of effort. My friend David Cummings says gardening is easy, "Just plant what your family likes to eat." But for me, somehow it's never that simple. It's not just planting, it's getting what you planted to mature (Chickens ravaged our early plantings. Lesson learned.) And then deterring critters from eating what you did plant. They especially like our tomatoes, and putting in a motion-detector sprinkler and sprinkling the plants with cayenne did little to stop them from eating them. Even the apparently foolproof step of "planting what your family likes" proved tricky this year. Whether because pots were mislabeled at the store, or because I was just plain careless, or what, we ended up with a lot of things we didn't intend. I got a variety of eggplant instead of purple beauty, which produces long tear-drop shaped white fruits streaked with lavender. I got banana peppers instead of bell peppers.
Pulling out one tomato which had over-topped its cage, I was reminded of a line from Frost who compares birch trees bent over from the weight of an ice storm, trailing leaves along the ground, to "girls on hands and knees that throw their hair before them over their heads to dry in the sun." This plant was something like that, if the hair had been a wilder, thicker tangle and perfumed with the wild fragrance of tomato vine.
The birds were singing when I put the garden in, and they are still singing when I take it out, but their song is different now. Before, they were singing, "It's spring! The worms are fat! Let's build a nest, lay some eggs, and raise, a family!" Even to a non-bird such as I, it was perfectly clear what they were saying. Now, their notes are isolated, and distant. They are either different birds or sing a different song. I do not know what it means. It sounds like, "Where? Where?" but it probably is something else.
I put the weeds in the composter, and left the wild hair of the tomatoes trailing the ground where I'd pulled them. I put up the cages in the tool room, and took my final harvest of green tomatoes, eggplant, banana peppers, and cucumbers to the house. Birds sang unlikely songs overhead, and one wild rose bloomed. Hope and struggle put away for another year.