I smothered the grass path next to the vegetable garden with newspaper and covered it in mulch. It looked neat for a while, then the chickens dug through it, and the corn came down, and the gate went crooked. It still makes me happy to look at. The hydrangea and the amaranth are both so heavy-headed right now, and the garden doesn't ask me for much. The potatoes are out, the garlic is in. It's a path I always want to go down.
Late September is a time to start thinking about next year. Last fall, I bought an oversized notebook with the intention of keeping almost-good garden notes, and sometimes I do. My vegetable scribbles for next spring are mostly this:
Plant again: Sargossa lettuce. Ba Ye Qi Sorghum. Einfache Schnitt Parsley. Liebsapfel peppers. Munich purslane.
I wish I had planted: Winter luxury pumpkins. Little pickling cucumbers. Okra.
I'd like to try: Not-so-sweet sweet corn. Green Mountain potatoes. Winter cabbage (again).
These thoughts aren't great, because they're all autumn thoughts. I remember wanting something to do with peas (planting more? less?), but that was April, and I can't actually imagine spring. Planting all those radish seeds felt tiring, but how is that possible? Was the ground really ever cold?
My bedroom window looks over the garden, and beyond the garden is road construction. The crew is taking lunch and laughing about someone's wife's breasts. The neighborhood chickens are loud, too, laying midday eggs. It's a warm day, and it's a beautiful one.
I was pulling mint out in handfuls and got stung by a bumblebee. It died in the mulch soon after. People will tell you not to plant mint because it will take over. They're right, but they're also wrong. Two years ago, I bought one tiny pot of mint, and it gives me tea all summer, jars of dried leaves for winter, and enough surplus pull in big mounds twice a year to use as chicken bedding (do chickens enjoy the smell of mint?) On the other hand, the mint is taking over the whole bed along the house and it looks raggedy- even to me. I used to think the bees would like the flowers, but, dead bumble bee aside, they generally have better things to pay attention to.
So mint is pulled often, and the smell stays on arms and hands a while. Two harvests in one; the mint-naysayers never mention that. I've been thinking about how Wes Jackson says that the world has always been more beautiful than useful. It seems like an important thing to remember.
In the spring, I cover plants to protect them from frost, worry about over-heated fava beans, move seedlings in and out of the open air. This is the time of year, the garden is less trouble and more beautiful. Radishes (blauer winter) sprout between the pepper plants. The dry cornstalks make rustling sounds that are more valuable than the ears. There's a lesson here, but I don't know what it is. Someone told me they like to eat their mint with watermelon, gin, and mangoes. I said I'd try their recipe, but the season cooled, and I thought I missed my chance. The weather's warming again. We always have a little more time than we think.