Sep 25 2015

There is No Finish Line

The summer garden is in its final days. This concept of finality intrinsically takes on a negative aura. And indeed, the final moments of something are frequently tinged with sadness. The end of a vacation, the end of a wonderful date, the end of a friendship.

But, a finale is also plush with empowering connotations too. The completion of an assignment, months in the making. The crossing of a marathon finish line, not one step further. The last sentence of a superbly satisfying book. When you look at an ending from this perspective, you might feel contentment nudging aside sadness.

And so, that’s how I plan to view the end of the summer garden. I, with the help of Justin, poured months of planning, physical labor, discussion, and reading into our raised beds and containers. I nurtured seedlings, I felt despair over nibbled leaves and squirrel-dug holes, I became irrationally excited by the August lushness. Yet even in that August excitement, I envisioned the beds in their more drab state, the vibrancy reduced to memories tucked away in notes and photos.

As one of my final garden tasks, I drastically pruned the tomato plants last week to encourage concentrated, directed energy into the green tomatoes still on the vines. I maintain a watchful eye on the butternut squash as they inch along to maturity, becoming more uniformly tan with each day. I’ve let the basil all go to seed; I’ve stopped picking beans; I’ve stopped dead-heading zinnias. It’s time to let those plants dry and die, so that I can save something for next year’s garden.

Instead of shutting the book for the year or putting a massive checkmark beside a completed task (garden: done!), I’ve flipped the grow lights back on to start a small winter garden full of kale and mustard greens. The seedlings already look strong, waiting to take their place in the about-to-be vacated beds. I’ve never winter gardened before, except for cover cropping, and I’ll be out of town after I transplant these greens. Will they be hardy enough to survive? I hope so, but even if they don’t, I’m already scheming for next year’s garden, turning the page with new goals and hopes, aware that I’ll never break the finish line’s tape.