Wednesday, 28 July 2010

A gardener on the road

by Francesca


I was on the road for almost three weeks this month, first in a country I'd always wanted to visit, Portugal (here), and then in a region I love, Tuscany (here). But my vegetable garden did not share my enthusiasm for travel. By the time I returned home, it had become a forest of healthy weeds threatening to choke my weakened plants. Traveling when you have a vegetable garden is an issue.

neglected lettuce
~ what remained of my lettuce and carrot patch ~

A vegetable garden needs constant care and attention during the hot summer months: watering, weeding, harvesting ripe vegetables and removing unhealthy ones, checking for pests and diseases - these are just some of a gardener's daily tasks. And although you can install automatic irrigation systems to take care of the watering, everything else needs to be done by hand with a watchful eye.

neglected tomatoes
~ my unruly tomato plants invaded by weeds ~

I love gardening, and I spend many winter months eagerly waiting for that magic spring day when I can start preparing the soil for sowing and transplanting seedlings. During the summer months, I cherish the time early in the morning or late evening that I spend with my plants in the garden. And what a special joy it is to walk back to the house with a heavy basket full of vegetables I've grown, and to know that my family will eat good and healthy food! So every summer, when my garden is in full production and I have to leave it, I'm torn.

neglected basil
~ luckily, my basil and strawberries were among the plants that survived ~

This year I was lucky, and found the damage of three weeks of travel, during which a neighbor girl watered my garden every other day, wasn't as bad as it looked: I'd lost my string beans, eggplants, zucchini, cucumbers and, naturally, all the different varieties of lettuce. But my herbs, tomatoes, strawberries and chards are alive. And of course, I may have more nice surprises waiting for me underground: I'm really curious to see what happened to my carrots, garlic, onions and potatoes during the weeks of neglect.

How do you handle going away on vacation and keeping your garden alive and healthy in the meanwhile?