I have a good view of my garden from the window in Clare’s bedroom. Ordinarily I’d have no reason to be in her room, but she  has moved to Madison and left me responsible for her aquarium. The only reason she even has an active aquarium is that she took pity on a half dozen bait minnows I brought home after a day of fishing last fall. I thought the minnows would turn belly up in a few days, but they’ve been doing well for six months on a diet of tropical fish flakes.

The floor of our one-story house is about two feet higher than the ground outside, so my window view of the garden is from a slightly elevated position. This morning I watched the plants get knocked around by the wind. The sunflowers stood higher than everything else, so they took the brunt of it. The cucumbers hugged the ground and barely moved. The beans clung to a trellis and easily rode out the strongest gusts.

I do not keep annual records of my garden, but as I gazed upon this year’s plantings, I thought about some of the quirky occurrences over the years.  Last year, for example, I planted cauliflower, and not one of the four plants developed a head. Two years ago I bought my seed from an Amish farmer, and the plants that came up did not always match the words handwritten on the seed envelopes. This year, even though I bought my seed from a seed catalog, there is again something I cannot identify. I rechecked my seed packets, but one of the plants in the herb bed does not look like anything pictured on the packages. It’s a relatively short plant, frillier than even parsley or cilantro. I crushed a couple of its leaves between my fingers, and it doesn’t smell like anything I recognize. The young plants, however, are flourishing, and I wish my bell peppers were doing as well. Okra? I don’t know what an okra plant looks like, but I think I may have planted some – even though I don’t know what okra is used for.* 

The growing season this year has had a rocky start, and I assume it cannot be good for plants. There was one night of hard frost mid-May, followed by an unusually hot and dry late May/early June. An ornamental crab in my backyard lost half of its leaves as if it was autumn. Most of my lawn already is brown and dormant. My cucumber vines, even though the plants are only a foot long, have blossomed. I doubt early flowering results in a bumper crop.

The dry weather conditions also have led to unseasonably low water levels on the Upper Mississippi. That means the fish are congregated in the deep pools. Maybe I should focus less on my garden and spend more time with my other favorite summer pastime. Clare has made it clear that I cannot use her aquarium minnows as bait.

* I googled “okra plant” after I wrote this blog.  The mystery row in my garden is not okra.


Steven Simpson