Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Living with the weeds

The plum tree is loaded this year; branches are bowed over filled with little plums, and today I noticed the June drop has begun. When you don't use poisons to control disease, clean cultivation is one way to help prevent problems. Getting rid of rotting fruit all over the ground will provide less nourishment for those bugs who like to feed on the fruit. After the first five minutes or so of sitting and kneeling on the ground, picking up one hard or sometimes shriveled little plums scattered below the whole circumference of the tree--millions of them--in the grass--it's one of those activities, when I start to wonder if I'm nuts! But then I start to get into it. At first I barely can see all the little plums, but soon my eyes focus on their purplish green oval forms hiding in the grass. After a bit I start noticing more all the varied little plants that are growing. This is not just grass, but white clover, which is currently flowering, and gill-over-the-ground, which has some little purple flowers still blooming. Fortunately Steve cut the grass before the magnificent thunderstorm yesterday that shook so many of the littlest plums out of the tree. The plums are a bit more visible iin the short grass. Even little tiny wild strawberries have managed to set fruit here and there in the short grass. When I crawl close to the tree trunk, I start to notice the activity of insects going up and down the bark. Besides ants there are a number of another insect that I don't recognize. It is black with two orange stripes going the length of its back. It crawls onto my hand too with many legs. It's maybe 4 mm long and 1 1/2 mm wide. Back into the grass I start to see more of these critters and others--a ladybug, and another triangular orange insect and I wish I knew all their names and whether they are friend or foe. And soon I am grateful for this seemingly insane task that has taken a half hour so far and I am only half done. What a good excuse to crawl around the grass and look at everything. I can even look up occasionally from my task to see the yellow mustard flowers and the fava beans in the garden waving in the breeze, and the blue sky and white clouds above, and still feel productive.

So much of gardening is a good excuse to play in the dirt and be outside. When I put transplants into the ground, like the tomatoes and peppers which I recently planted, it reminds me of playing in the dirt as a child, making hills and rivers and pouring water through them. For each plant I dig a hole, throw in some compost and then gently place in the plant, and pat back in the dirt. I raise up the soil in ring around the plant four or five inches or so from the plant, so that when I water it, the water does not flow away but stays within the rilng and percolates downwards into the roots.