The garden is so full it is busting out of its plants. I...

THE REAL DIRT

June 21, 1992|By MIKE KLINGAMAN

The garden is so full it is busting out of its plants. I have run out of places to grow things. The last lucky tenant, a homely tomato plant that was started in a peat pot, moved into the garden last night, moments before its scheduled execution.

Gardeners compost the plants they can't use, and this scrawny little tomato was asking for it. The plant was a dog compared to the beauties in the garden. But a last-minute reprieve saved the tomato.

Our 10-year-old, who felt sorry for the plant, threatened to drop worms down my shorts unless I used it.

Grudgingly, I complied. I squeezed in the tomato amid some lettuce. It was a snug fit. The lettuce and tomato couldn't get any closer if they were on a sandwich.

Space is tight. The garden is stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey, waiting to be baked by the summer sun.

I've planted everything from asters to zucchini. I've sown everything but my wild oats, and I've long since forgotten where I stashed them.

After a hectic spring, gardeners practice the three W's. We weed, water and wait. Harvest is weeks, maybe months away.

Does this mean we have time, and not dirt, on our hands? It does not. While waiting to reap what's been sown, I can tackle other long-neglected yard chores.

For instance, there is a plant growing out of a crack in the patio, a plant that should be in the garden. I'd like to transplant it, but how do I move it? With a jackhammer?

The roots are buried under a slab of cement.

The plant, a sturdy little herb called lemon balm, struggled up through the concrete this spring. Heaven knows where it came from. Most likely a bird dropped the seed on the patio, while taking a bath in the dogs' water bowl. Birds sometimes do this, even though they have a nice basin of their own, a safe distance from the house. Instead, they hop into the dogs' dish, splash up a storm and then fly off.

I presume that bathing in the doggie bowl is some sort of courting ritual, whereby a male can impress the heck out of his lady friend by performing such a stunt. (It worked for my college roommate, even though he managed to get stuck in the dog dish.)

Another project I'd like to complete this summer is: the Path To Nowhere. Three years ago, my wife suggested we build a 50-foot flagstone walkway. Ten feet into the job, I excused myself to use the bathroom. For some reason I never came back.

Ever since, I've been finding reasons to not finish it. The walkway just comes to a dead-end, as if the builder had suddenly been beamed aboard a spaceship. I'm saving that excuse for later.

There are also five freshly dug holes in the back yard where Katydid the dog tried to root out the mole that has been terrorizing our block for several years.

The mole spends some time in each yard and moves on, like a thief on the lam. Last year he burrowed into our soft garden loam and chewed the roots off my carrots. Of course, I didn't know this because the tops looked just fine. Imagine my surprise at harvest time.

Apparently the mole scooted next door for a while, because I heard Angelo, our neighbor, fussing at it. But I knew the varmint was back last week when Katydid, who was dozing with her ear to the ground, leaped up and began pawing furiously at the turf. Grass and dirt flew everywhere. I figured that mole was a goner. Ordinarily I'd scold Katydid. But I decided a hole in the yard was worth the price of nailing that mole.

However, one hole became two . . . then three. The mole seemed to be digging just as fast as the dog. By the fifth hole, we were on our way to having a golf course, so I dragged Katydid away. She snorted in disgust, as did I.

Now I must fill in the holes. Worse, the mole's current path puts the varmint on a collision course with my daughter's favorite tomato plant.

If anything happens to that plant, I'll have worms in my shorts for sure.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

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