When last year’s pigs were gone and the field they’d turned over was empty, we decided we’d turn it into a garden. Knowing that this year’s pigs were going to a different spot, it seemed like an obvious next step. After all, the pigs had done the lion’s share of the tilling already, to say nothing of all that manure.
So we added a bunch of organic topsoil and tilled it again and put up a fence and planted some squash. We thought it would be great to have a dedicated garden for all the different kinds of squash we wanted to grow. The plants take up a lot of room, and back here they would have plenty of space without crowding the front garden. We figured this would be the perfect spot for brussels sprouts as well.
We started our seeds in the hoop house and then transplanted everything in early May. We waited until after May 11th, when this area is considered safe from frost. As an added precaution, we covered every tiny plant with mulch in the event that evening temperatures dropped too low. One of the issues with cucurbits (squash, gourds, cucumbers, etc.) is that they are extremely sensitive to near-freezing temperatures. We learned this the hard way when temperatures dropped at the very end of May to below 40 degrees overnight. While there wasn’t ever an actual frost, it did get cold enough to damage our little squash plants–all 48 of them–seemingly irreparably.
The brussels sprouts faired no better. Then June came with its endless and torrential rains and our little plants seemed like they never stood a chance. The back garden was being written off. We were saying things like, “Well, next year we’ll plant a little later.” and “Maybe we should test the soil back there.” July came and the plants hadn’t grown at all. Last year, we were giving squash away at the beginning of July because we had more than we could eat. This year, we lamented the loss with a sigh and turned our attention fully to the front garden.
It was like the back garden wasn’t even there. We just started walking past it without a glance. We stopped weeding. When the rains stopped and the ground finally dried, and the rain never came back for a month, we didn’t water.
But then, the volunteers came.
Volunteer plants appeared down behind the garden, in with the pigs, and growing out of the compost.
While the plants were probably still there somewhere under all the weeds, we certainly hadn’t thought about them lately. But now, here and there we were finding healthy and productive squash plants of several varieties. We’ve encountered delicata, 8-ball, and butternut in the unlikeliest locations. And all this growth set me to thinking…
I thought that maybe, just maybe, there might be squash after all. So I started unearthing the garden to see what there was to see.
It took two full days of weeding to clear away that full month of neglect. Upon starting, it really didn’t even look like a garden.
There were just some runty plants among robust and thriving weeds. Once everything that wasn’t a squash plant was cleared away, however, it started to take on the look of something resembling a place where things might grow.
And, among all the wreckage was actual, honest-to-god, squash. Zucchini and summer squash, with the promise of more to come.
We discovered tomato plants, covered in early, green fruit growing along the edges of the fence. And way at the back, Dave had thrown a handful of sweet corn seeds some weeks earlier. Not sure why he did it, but I think it was something along the lines of “why not?”
And now we are saying, “Why not, indeed!” as we discover the beginnings of corn stalk after corn stalk pressing up out of the earth.
I think all of these plants were just waiting to be taken care of just a little so that they could get on with the business of growing. There will be squash this year, after all. And tomatoes. And maybe even a little bit of corn.
Never say never.