the fall of the garden

I went into the garden tonight. I went with the intention of doing those things I’ve been telling myself I need to do–pull the zinnias, squash, and tomatoes; try my best with the weeds, prepare a bed for garlic. But instead, I couldn’t help but just sit there and love it. The work can wait, I guess. It’s waited this long.

All summer, I’ve been lamenting the groundhogs. I’ve been lamenting my own busy schedule that prevents me from weeding around the neat rows I optimistically planted in May. I’ve been telling stories of the deer who ate every single last tomato.

But tonight, the garden and I talked about the good things we’ve seen together this year. Zinnias, blooming from May until last week in every color.  Tomatillos, garlic, and herbs that made it into pestos and liquors and everything else. Kale that still refuses to bow to the groundhog. Marigolds that perfumed the entire yard.

Two girls who got bigger, stronger, more stubborn, and more adventurous. Parties, drinks, rainstorms, new neighborhood dogs tromping through and peeing where they like. And a cat, our cat, who went from one who sometimes sneaks outside to one who spends his days lounging in the sun. He lives in that garden, and he’s never so happy as when we’re out there with him. I think he just enjoys watching it all grow.

Back in April, our friends came, and we dug the new bed. It rained that day, just enough to keep the ground soft. We talked about that too, the garden and I.

Nights after bedtime when Joey pulled me outside even though I said “I’m busy! Tired! In the middle of something!” But he’d take my hand anyway, and then we’d sit and have a beer and listen to the peepers. Watch the fireflies.

Sadie in her first badminton game. Daily tromps through the garden and past the yard to the river, bathing suited. No towel even, because who needs it when you just have to walk back up the hill in the heat. That’s nature’s towel.

The walk into the garden in the dark moonlessness, when my friend Andrew and I went in search of oregano for a late night pot of tomato sauce. We picked leaves from every plant in the bed closest to the house, smelling the oil on our fingers to see if we’d found the right one.

Sparklers on 4th of July. Coffee on the porch in the morning. Picnics, cookies on the lawn, popsicles, and the snow of elderflowers stuck in our hair. And the night that our friends came and we ate blueberry pie as it got dark, then spread wool blankets out by the garden so we could all lie down and see only the expanse of sky. And each time a meteor would flare and burst and then disappear again, one of us would say, “Ah! There’s another!” But then that one would be gone by the time the words were out, only to be replaced by another in a different piece of sky.




  1. says

    You said it. Was just looking at the fiery Virginia creeper, the crumbled ferns and desiccated vines in our garden today. Another season, another year, another sheaf of memories to store away.

    • alana says

      Yes, Laura- the way you say it–it makes me think about all these old vines going back into the compost–holding the memories of the year and sending them back into the soil. Love that.

  2. lee says

    This could be my favorite post on any blog ever. I guess I’m just smitten for my garden and you wrote the love letter that I couldn’t. 😉

  3. catherine says

    Hi – I am new to your blog and am touched by your garden and the life it brings you. As I open up my computer to start my day at work (too far away from my garden) i feel compelled to thank you for bringing me home.
    Have a lovely day.

  4. Lisa Moran says

    I think my garden and I will have a conversation this evening while the chickens walk around the yard–you have inspired me! What a lovely picture you painted with your words . And your cat is so handsome!!

    • alana says

      He is, isn’t he? That photo was one of many that he just posed for, turning his head this way and that way. I think he’s happy for his chance for the spotlight.

  5. Cindy Rosenbaum says

    Hi Alana,

    Once again, you’ve brought tears to my eyes! I’m trying to hold on to my garden for as look as possible. Beans that were partially covered through the frost and still somewhat producing, a bit of spinach, arugula, cilantro, a few lingering beets, scallions, and kale, of course. Green tomatoes ripening in the basement, and garlic and shallots to last until next year’s garden. And garlic all ready to plant, to get my hands into the soil one last time before winter. And just a few raspberries that the birds and squirrels have left us. We do have gardening in our genes!!!!

    • alana says

      We do! And I’m so thankful for it. I was just thinking about Grandpa Irving’s garden and how prolific it was! I wish I knew some of his secrets!

  6. Dalaiah says

    Had a similar experience in my community garden patch last weekend… Only I could not recount it nearly as poetically as you did! Your writing is so grounded and real, and yet ethereal at the very same time. THANK YOU for capturing these thoughts and experiences in words (and beautiful images, as well!).

    Will plant garlic this weekend…

  7. says

    Mmmmm. So sweet and evocative.
    I spent some time in the garden today chopping up frosted tomato plants while my kids played and chickens pecked around. It was a good season, lots of work, food, beauty, abundance and biodiversity. Feels goos to say a proper goodbye.

  8. Hollie says

    Such a beautiful post. I will never look at our dwindling summer garden the same, and now I definitely owe it a proper goodbye. I think I will open the gate, take my tea and our chickens and I can say our goodbyes before we turn the old into the new.

  9. says

    In my garden it was the gooseberries the deer would eat; never anything else, but each year just before I though the berries were finally ripe enough to pick, the deer would eat the bush down to sticks. So strange. A garden that speaks to you is a joy.

    • alana says

      Ah yes, the gooseberries. In my garden the gooseberries always flower and never fruit–why seems to be a mystery to anyone I ask! Just another secret the garden keeps, and maybe next year, maybe next year….

  10. Luba says

    Just came back from a morning walk through San Francisco, most of which I spent dreaming of the garden I someday wish to have. So wonderful to come home and read about just such a place…Thank you.

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