I just got lambasted by my dear friend and gardening guru, Mike, for being a selfish gardener.
Now, before you all jump to my defense, I’ll tell you this…Mike is a TRUE friend. He doesn’t just tell me what I want to hear. He tells me the way things are, uncomfortable or not.
And, the uncomfortable truth is, he’s right. I am being selfish.
At the end of the gardening season, Connecticut experienced a fast cold snap, sending the overnight temperatures into the twenties for a couple of nights. It was time to cut down the garden, ready or not, and harvest the last of the vegetables. I took up the winter squash and Dahlias, then set myself to taking up the hot pepper plants, and harvesting the peppers. Ripe ones went into the freezer, and unripe went into paper bags, to be ripened inside.
Three of my pepper containers were predominantly green. I brought them in and put them under the lights so that I could get further ripening from those plants. Cool, right?
Not so fast. That was better than a month ago. I’ve been tending the plants, watering, ripening, bringing them along. They’re out on the front porch, which is enclosed, but not heated. We had a wonderful week a couple of weeks back, and these last couple of days have been great. The peppers on the plants are now predominantly ripe.
So…why have I not harvested the damn things, and composted the soil by now? Well…it’s because I have been selfish. I love having the plants around. I love coming home, to look up into my windows and see that lush, green life shining its welcome in the window. I love the sparks of deep red against the green leaves. The plants look vibrant and healthy, for all the world like they’re having a grand time of it out there.
“But they look so happy!” I wailed into the phone.
Mike, in his wisdom, said, “No. You need to stop this. The plants are doomed, and your watching them go on is like watching a two year old, running with delighted reckless abandonment toward a cliff.”
Truth be told, and here’s where Mike’s genteel brand of tough love comes in, the plants aren’t as lush and green as I want them to be. When I open my eyes and stop thinking only of what I want from the plants, and see more than what I want to see, I see leaves in decline, yellowing and fading. The plants have stopped flowering. The peppers are ripe. The two Peter Pepper plants have achieved over 90% ripening, with only a few green guys left. The big Cayenne planter has achieved about 50% ripening, but the leaves are starting to yellow.
The plants are telling me that their time is up. These plants are asking me to harvest what is ripe, and let go of what is not. The soil is fried. There’s nothing left to sustain their needs. Soon, the ripe peppers will fail, burst and fall off the plants. The green ones will wither. The soil will never stand a chance in compost.
I am, selfishly, no longer meeting the needs of the plants and soil, and that is inexcusable. It’s time to shelve my gardening addiction, and let Nature take her course.
It’s also time to haul my elder statesman out and start cooking these peppers into this year’s batch of wicked hot sauce!