Saturday, August 6, 2011

'Lope Springs Eternal

I have had a fruit-and-vegetable garden since my father showed me his tomato plants when I was about six. I don't know what made a bigger impression: The fact that he was producing something I thought only came from the grocery store, or the fat, ugly horn worms that he picked off and tossed over the fence.

Either way, that afternoon put me on the path to lifelong gardener. I've had mixed results, but managed over the years to produce bushels of tomatoes, squash of all kinds, peppers, beans, cucumbers, corn, eggplant, lettuce, kale, chard and others.

I also had a holy grail: Melons.

Oh, I tried, believe me I tried. Watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupes. They died out fast, never germinated, started off swell and then petered out.

One year, my cantaloupe vines actually set fruit. I was elated. Then, just as the baby melons started to swell up, the plant shriveled and died within days. Heartbroken, I pulled up the gnarled roots and took them to the expert Japanese-American gardeners at my local nursery. The discouraging diagnosis: Nematodes.

Another year, my watermelon plants seemed to thrive. The baby melons set, the fruit grew. It looked like I'd finally achieved the impossible: Beautiful, green stripers sat in the garden patch ... and they sat ... and they sat. The vine gradually died back, the fall rolled around and when there was nothing else to do, I picked them. Inside, the fruit was yellow tinged with pink. The melons had never ripened.

That was pretty much the end of it. I'd given up. Until this year:

There are about half a dozen more in various stages of ripening on the vine. The irony is that I didn't do a thing. I didn't even plant this cantaloupe, it showed up as a volunteer, probably originating from a melon I tossed into my compost pile sometime last winter.

What I love about gardening: Nature constantly surprises. Life will out. Things want to grow and produce and thrive. I post this not to brag, but to encourage. Even when you think you're beaten, and your plants have died and your career is over, a small shoot will push its head out of the soil.

With a little TLC, you may even wind up with a cantaloupe.


  1. I can attest it tasted real good but it went fast!

  2. Look at you!

    I know, I know. I've got something out there--a squash, maybe. It's a volunteer, too, and it's the biggest, greenest thing in my yard besides the clementine tree (which I also didn't plant). I'm just watering it and hoping.

  3. I love volunteers! They are more fun than whatever I plant deliberately.