Siboney Duf finds that sometimes the sheer abundance of her summer garden is too much to contemplate, but if she gives up on ‘lists’, and has a nice cup of tea – surrounded by nature, everything flows once more…
The last few weeks have been spectacular in terms of weather in this neck of the woods. Daytime temperatures have averaged in the mid to late twenties and most evenings have seen the sort of nighttime rains that preempt exponential plant growth and – for the subtropical food gardener – harvests that are twice the size (if not more) than those of previous weeks. The net result, however, has been a glut of tomatoes, eggplants, peas, beans, late season broccoli, and the last of this season’s potatoes. The truth is that I’ve been unable to keep up with it all, and the rate of production is far from diminishing because in the wings are the strawberries, passionfruit, raspberries, subtropical apples, and guavas.
It’s not like I can plead ignorance to the verve of the season. I’ve been gardening since I was eight when I planted my first border of French marigolds; I’ve been growing food crops for the past twenty years. I know full well that summer yields are plentiful and that careful planning is required in order to make the most of the season’s bounty. I even remembered to retrieve my stash of recipes in preparation for the pre-Christmas flurry of cooking and bottling that accompanies such abundance but it was such a busy December that I never quite made it as far as the actual harvesting and preserving.
But in the summer my garden fills with birds each afternoon and, as I sat there with my cup of tea, I watched them flit in and out of the lavender and roses, land on the rhubarb and fennel stalks (both flowering, the latter towering well above my height at the moment), and feast on the trumpeted pentstemons. I noticed the bees too, and the butterflies, the dragon flies, the ladybirds. Even the ants. As my gaze settled and I became calm I noticed that my garden was a flurry of activity with every element – plant and animal – making the most of the weather and the bounty. And then it occurred to me that of all of the living creatures enjoying the afternoon, only I had chosen to write a list.
It struck me with force the realisation that much as I love lists they are a double-edged sword. There are some tasks we will never quite complete; some tasks which can never be truly ticked off the list. There are times when the best we can do is pick a single tomato and relish its sun-soaked goodness. Because if we don’t, if we choose instead to fret over the fact that we’ve left the rest of the bush to the birds and the caterpillars and the ants, then we’ve missed the point entirely.
And so the summer harvest will be incomplete and my preserving jars will no doubt remain empty this year. But it will be a glorious summer no matter what and that ultimately is all that matters.
Summer in the subtropical garden:
Eat, eat and eat some more. There will be plenty to pick and the rate of growth is staggering, so feel free to feast on strawberries while hanging out the washing and to let the kids ravage the passionfruit and eat their fill of the mulberries. And rest. The heat and humidity will take their toll so keep yourself and your plants well-watered and make the most of the summer weather.