Leek seedheads always make me think of an alien invasion
I always wonder, when people tell me they'd love to see my garden, exactly what they expect. I often hope that their expectations don't include rows of neatly ordered plants with bare, weed-free dirt in between because they'd be disappointed.
In the last week the vege garden has gone from looking lush to seeming slightly battered around the edges. We've been picking corn as we need it, but the cobs have all come off this weekend. Next weekend, I'll pull the cornstalks out and mulch them. They break down slowly so I prefer to munch them up. I'll probably leave a couple for the dogs to use as sticks. The dog's taste for corn is bordering on obsessional; I've found him chewing on discarded outer leaves whenever they come within his reach, and he and I had a bit of a disagreement this morning when he pinched a cob from the chook run; as I've mentioned before, corn can get stuck in a dog's gut. The dog reckons his teeth are big enough to sort out anything as wimpy as a corn cob, and says if I don't believe him, why don't I go check what's left of his latest bone? He's probably right, but I'd prefer not to find out the expensive vet bill way that he isn't. Fortunately, he's too well-behaved to help himself from the garden. Much of the corn has had multiple ears this year, so there's plenty to go around. Actually, it was a struggle to find freezer space, but worthwhile. It's been nice to have corn over winter - we only ate the last of the previous season's corn last month.
Pumpkins scramble under the corn, and are trying to smother the tomatoes at the edge of the corn patch. I don't mind that the tomatoes don't have a completely clear growing space because the pumpkin leaves are helping to hide the ripe tomatoes from the birds.
To one side of these, apple cucumbers are spreading. I planted these later in the season, and they began fruiting just as the gherkins and green cucumbers in the tunnel house fizzled out. Above the cucumbers is an old clothes airer I picked up for a couple of dollars secondhand. I'm trying to train the cucumbers to grow up it instead of sprawling too far.
The asparagus at the far end of the bed has grown so high it's tickling the lower branches of the pear tree. The tree is fruiting well again this year, and although recent winds have knocked a few fruit off, they've fallen into the nice soft sawdust mulch under the asparagus, which has kept them clean and bruise-free. I've been taking them inside to ripen; they're still a little immature but stew up nicely after a few days on the bench to soften.
A row of leeks that have gone to seed is slowly being pulled out and fed to the chooks, a couple of plants per day. They seem quite partial to them. I quite like the leek seedheads - there's something otherworldly about them that makes the garden look a bit like aliens have come to visit.
There are two reasons the garden has vegetables in various stages of going to seed. The first is that I like to collect the seed to use the following year. The second is equally practical - if I don't need the space immediately, it makes sense to let the plant keep growing and feed it gradually to the chooks. Our other pumpkin patch is a good example; it's bordered by a row of celery that went to seed a few weeks ago. The celery grew taller and acted as a barrier to stop the pumpkin tendrils overtaking the carrot and beetroot rows beyond. Now that we've eaten those, I'm gradually chopping the celery back to the base and feeding the seedheads to the hens. Already the first plants I've treated like that are resprouting with fresh edible stalks that I'll start using in salads and stirfries this week. The pumpkins in this patch are a little older than the others, and although they've grown well, the earlier leaves are starting to brown off, making that section of the garden look tired.
There is one final reason the grass isn't always cut and the weeds sometimes look as though they're permanent residents. Life is busy, and sometimes if it comes to a toss-up between spending the last precious minutes of a weekend between tidying, and sitting down to take a breath and savour the view, the latter wins out. What's the point in having a garden, if you don't take a moment to simply enjoy it every now and then.