In October I shared photos (that were actually taken in September) that showed my garden at the height of its beauty and production. Shortly after that, my wife and I harvested the summer bounty of tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, radishes, and more. It was all totally delicious – I made the best salads I’ve ever had from the harvest.
I probably harvested again haphazardly at least once more before the end of the campaign season, and I think I recall planting some seeds – more radishes, carrots, and some mixed greens (kale, chard, collards, etc.). But then it was the end of campaign season, and after that we went on our honeymoon to Hawaii, and then it was Thanksgiving (the first we’d ever hosted at our home), and December flew by.
So somehow we managed to basically forget about our garden for nearly three months. We never watered (not necessary with the steady rainfall and general moisture in our neighborhood due to the creek), we didn’t plant anything new, and we didn’t pull any weeds. After a while, I was kind of scared to look. I went outside periodically to grab some herbs for dinner, but it was always dark and I tried not to look around too much.
Finally, a couple of weekends ago, on a cold but sunny Saturday, I decided to face the garden. Maybe it was because I felt so good after going to the grand opening of the 81st Avenue Library, but whatever it was, I decided it was time to at least check in.
I was pleasantly surprised that some of our veg was still growing and very healthy. The dead tomato plant had completely disintegrated, the pepper plant was dormant but still alive (peppers manage to be perennial in the East Bay), the radishes were still flourishing, some of the greens had grown, and some of the lettuce had survived.
I neglected the maintenance work and got to harvesting, since I didn’t have much time that day. I poked around the radishes and found one big enough to pull out. Sadly, just that one was ready (I think I need to seriously thin them in the future so there’s room to grow). Then I cut a bunch of collard greens. I made my way over to the lettuce, cut off all the flowers, and harvested a decent sized basket full.
I looked around for anything else worth harvesting and was about to go inside when the huge pot filled with dirt at the back of the garden called to me. To an observer, it would have looked like just a pot of dirt – there was absolutely nothing growing in it. But I knew better. I knew that for a couple of months we had planted potatoes, then covered the plants almost entirely with dirt, then planted another layer, and so on until the pot was filled and the plants were bursting over the edges. You’re supposed to wait until the plants yellow and start to die but that must have happened during our period of neglect.
Clearly, these potatoes were ready to be dug up. I started digging around with a trowel and my hands and soon started to find tiny potatoes that were smaller than dimes. A bit lower down the potatoes I found were dime sized, then nickel sized, and then quarter sized. I knew that the deeper I went, the bigger the potatoes would get, but it was hard work because the soil was packed fairly tight, I didn’t have a shovel, and it’s difficult to see the potatoes unless you look very carefully (and even then, you’ll surely miss some). At this point, I was rushing, as I had a little over an hour until I needed to be showered, dressed and ready for a gala so I left the pot half full, planning to come back to it some day in the future.
Harvesting made me want to spend more time in the garden – it seems only right since it provides for me even when I neglect it – so I hope I’ll have time soon to weed and to plant our spring crops. Until then, I’ll continue to grab herbs and will go back to the pot of dirt to hunt for potato treasures again.