Ten-foot-high fence keeps deer out of Cynthia's garden

Ten-foot-high fence keeps deer out of Cynthia’s garden

Howie and I have two gardens. Mine is a sprawling vegetable garden, some 900 square feet in area. His is 90 square feet.

Howie at work on his pyramidal strawberry bed

Howie at work on his pyramidal strawberry bed

I invariably start gardening long before winter is over, poring over seed catalogs, starting pots of seeds I’ve saved from previous years. And invariably the plants sprout, thirst for light, grow spindly, and droop away, long before I can put them out in the garden. Even though I know this will happen, every spring the urge to

get my hands into the dirt is too strong to resist.

This past winter, Howie’s first winter ever, he presented me with a plant stand, complete with growing lights. The plant stand and its growing lights worked. When spring arrived, we had seedlings to plant in our respective gardens — tomatoes, peppers, parsley, basil, and kale for me, a dozen zucchini plants for Howie.

Howie watered and weeded his zucchini this dry summer. One plant has been known to supply a family of five with zucchini. He had twelve plants. We’ve eaten zucchini in various guises every night since mid-July, and have frozen enough to get us through the winter. Remarkably, we don’t seem to get tired of zucchini.

My garden suffers from my enthusiasms. Every year I fall for the same trickery of the colorful garden seed packets. I’m always convinced that my produce will look like the enticing photos. I plant way too many vegetables — peas, spinach, kale, beets, Swiss chard, carrots, tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, potatoes, parsnips, okra, dill, parsley, basil, onions, garlic, eggplant. I’ve probably left something off this list. Between the too-close rows I plant nasturtiums and marigolds. Cherry tomatoes self-seed from years before, and so do borage and black-eyed Susans.

Mid-summer and Cynthia's garden is out of hand

Mid-summer and Cynthia’s garden is out of hand

Weeds self-seed, too.

By late summer, Howie’s garden is still tidy. He sets out a lawn chair and weeds and waters diligently from a seating position. He’s able to predict when the next zucchini will be ready. He constructed a pyramidal strawberry bed that is the focal point of his garden. Living in San Diego most of his life, it’s difficult for him to think of seasons when nothing will grow. He keeps hoping for the strawberry plants to produce berries, but they won’t bear until next June. Intellectually, he knows this, but he keeps hoping to see the strawberries burst forth.

Early in the season we feasted on spinach and peas. Then on beets and carrots. Then tomatoes and Swiss chard.

But the main produce from our gardens has been a steady supply of Howie’s zucchini.

By late summer, my enthusiasms wane. I know I should be pulling up weeds before they produce and drop the seeds that will populate next year’s garden, but somehow I don’t get to it.

Weeds heading for the compost heap
Weeds heading for the compost heap

This  morning, a glorious October day after three days of soft rain, I attacked the lush growth of weeds that have grown over, under, and around my less rugged crops. I’d filled the garden cart and was ready to take it to the compost heap when Howie came out with water for me to drink and to let me know it was lunchtime. It will take me a week of fine mornings like this to clear out the weeds, which is about the amount of time it will take those weeds’ seeds that I’ve been knocking into the moist soil to sprout.

Emerson described a weed as “a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” The only virtue I recognize is that pulling weeds is satisfying. At least, when I finally get to the task.

The zucchini we’ll dine on tonight will be sliced lengthwise, lightly steamed, arranged in a two-person casserole dish, topped with grated cheese, drizzled with ketchup, and placed in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes, until the cheese melts.



About Cynthia Riggs

CYNTHIA RIGGS, author of eleven books in the Martha’s Vineyard mystery series, has a geology degree from Antioch College, an MFA from Vermont College, and a Coast Guard Masters License (100-ton vessels). She recently married Dr. Howard Attebery, who came back into her life after 62 years.
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  1. Any writer looking for images, similes, and metaphors could find a dozen growing in your blog. I love it.

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