I got the call about two and half weeks ago. It was the Recreation Department, letting me know the community garden season would be ending soon. It was time to clean up my plot so they could rototill and prepare the garden for the winter and next year.
Listening to the message, one of my initial thoughts was, I could have planted more, weeded more…written more. There was the basil to cook with and write about, the tomatoes to see ripen, and the sunflowers to watch grow and bloom. But that’s okay. I’m writing now, and right now I’m thinking about the pictures and words that will follow here, from my recent last visits to the garden. I’m also thinking about how later on, should a thought or recipe bring a garden moment to mind, I can revisit the garden at those times, too.
This is not how the garden looked this past weekend, one week into November. But before getting to the present, I wanted to share a little warmth from the past.
The morning glories had a good time with the sun, too. These pictures were all from early September.
The interesting thing about my last visits to the garden – there was a brief stop during a morning run, the day after the call; a longer visit a few days later, to look in again; and two final trips last weekend, for the final clean-up – is that even though it was a more muted scene, with browns and fleeting greens before the final frost, there was still a lot to see and think about.
A week and a half ago, from a few yards away, this is what I saw:
The exterior scene matched my expectations – I knew it would look a little overgrown and tired, and take on a subdued palette – but then, upon walking around, and in, the garden, I realized there was more. It wasn’t from seeing up close the morning glory seeds that I knew I was going to collect, or from considering the collard greens that had leaves yet to harvest. It was the flowers. There were a few persistent flowers yet. There were a few morning glories and some radish flowers.
How often do you get to see a radish flower?
I must have seen some radish flowers earlier in the year, but now in November, with fewer distractions, it felt like I was seeing them for the first time. The novelty reminded me of the obvious – when you let plants grow, whether by accident or design, they know how to take care of themselves. They do what they’re made to do – they flower, produce seeds, and foster the next generation. The radish is no dummy.
In this case, it was a combination of luck and purpose from which the radish flowers bloomed. I didn’t harvest all the radishes initially, and then later when the remaining ones were past their, shall we say, salad days, I had the thought, ‘The plants aren’t taking up too much room…Why don’t I leave them there and see what happens?’
For the radish-uninitiated, what happens is the following: the radish bulb sitting at ground level gets a little bigger, while the rest of the plant above ground grows a lot. In the garden this year, it was as if the radish plants were playing and ultimately winning a game of, ‘Let’s see how many branches and seed pods we can produce by the fall, to make sure there are more radishes next year and to impress curious onlookers.’
The following pictures are all from November, but they convey a sense of the progression.
I felt a little bad that these little ones wouldn’t make it much longer with colder weather and rototiller to come, but their presence was also reassuring. The radish plants, left to themselves, had produced some good seeds. As I was cleaning up the garden, I collected all of the dried pods. They filled up more than half of a quart-size bag – a decent yield from the four or so radish plants that had been left to grow.
If you’re curious as to how many radish seeds are in this many dried pods, I have an easy three-step process you can use.
1. Consider the yield from a smaller number of pods:
2. Consider the number of pods in the bag. As an aid, I’ll also give you the profile.
3. Use your best math skills to determine the number of seeds.
This actually worked for me in my eighth grade German class when my guess was within 10 and I won the approximately 243 Gummi Bäers in the jar. At a summer picnic this year though, when I tried to guess the number of candy bars in a large jar, I was way off. But radish seeds. And seed pods. And a quart bag. Now there’s a contest!
To be honest, the idea of inaugurating a radish seed contest was not in my head when I started writing this post. But now that we’re here — Let’s do it!
This is going to be fun. In fact, it already is. It also brings me back to the garden, thinking of the many different yields and everything the garden has to offer. There are vegetable yields, when you plant vegetables. There are flower yields, when you plant flowers. And along the way, there’s always more. There is a little help from a garden neighbor one day. There is trading extra plants another week. And there is practicing Spanish with some of the gardeners during the year. There are also sunflowers to enjoy. There are volunteer collards to appreciate. And there seeds to collect and play games with.
In addition to the radish seeds, I also collected basil, cilantro, and morning glory seeds during my last visit to the garden. The morning glory seeds are in another quart-size bag, and the basil and cilantro, clipped as dried stalks from the garden, are for now providing household decoration.
And so the garden ends for the year, but it also continues along with everything else. There are stories to write, pictures to draw, and future gardens to plan. And there are also, I will add, seeds to count.