A garden should make you feel you’ve entered privileged space – a place not just set apart but reverberant – and it seems to me that, to achieve this, the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.
– Michael Pollan, American author, journalist, activist, and journalism professor at UC Berkeley, from Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education
There’s still a week left in the month of July, but my summer garden is expiring. After a bit of an early start in May this year, the garden flourished, thanks to a warm June.
But then July and our reliable air conditioner, a.k.a. the fog, rolled in and, coupled with my zealous overwatering, powdery mildew crept in. My good friend and fellow gardener Susie suggested spraying Neem oil on the leaves. While some plants had clearly gone past the point of no return – curled brown and black leaves, which the folks at Pastime Ace store in El Cerrito told me was a sign that the cells had died – many were still green but just dusted with a thick layer of mildew. A hearty dose seemed to have worked. But alas, despite our rising temperatures after a strange Monday thunderstorm and cloudy mornings, the powdery mildew returned and the plants are succumbing to a premature end of season.
Plants, I told Isabella, my budding gardener, are difficult to nurture if you are desiring long-lasting, healthy blooms. You have to watch out for cutworms, cucumber beetles, snails, slugs, and other pests. You have to be vigilant about fungus and other diseases, and, pardon the pun, nip them in the bud. But no matter that this summer I was the constant gardener who tirelessly fertilized, weeded, squashed snails beneath my sandal, squeezed cucumber beetles between leaves, clipped spent foliage, pinched buds for larger blooms, and moved plants around the yard to meet their shade or sun requirements, I couldn’t or can’t extend a blooming garden into September, which I have done in years past.
So I lament the end of the flower season and the Portola bouquets. And I think of preparations for next season. Do we take out the tubers in late fall? We need to separate the dahlia tubers anyway, so we’ll see if that makes a difference. We’ll mix compost into the garden soil in the winter. I’ll get those snails in early spring before they so much as nibble a tender green leaf.
And dream of a spring, summer, and early fall garden that would make Eden blush. Here’s to the last Portola bouquet and my last delivery of the summer. Be still my heavy gardener’s heart.