Pottering with intent in the herb garden is the best way to start a summer’s morning, knowing that soon it will be too hot in blazing sunshine, enjoying the caress of cool air on bare shoulders while it lasts.
The smell of marigolds wafts from my hands as I type, an hour and several hand washings since my early morning pruning spree. Midsummer and the herb garden is burgeoning. The marigold seeds that I planted to ward off bugs, have lived up to their name; a name that I never bothered reading on the seed packet: Sunset Giants. And they are still growing, overshadowing the parsley, surrounding the little rosemary bush, so that its destiny as part of a hedge is now threatened by an inferiority complex. I can hardly squeeze past on the path to pick rocket, where two thickets of marigolds meet and try to push each other out of the way.
It’s the last day of the old moon waning; it’s still in Capricorn and my moon planting calendar says prune, transplant trees. As soon as the children are safely bundled off to school, I forget about breakfast dishes on the table and wander out with secateurs and spade in hand.
Two tiny self seeded white stinkwoods need moving into pots, until winter, when maybe I can plant them elsewhere on the farm to grow into big trees one day. A sprig of yarrow comes with one, so I leave it in the pot. I love how rich the once-dry, sandy soil has grown since starting the garden in August. It’s nothing like the rich loam of some areas but it has a darker richer feel than before, like a sprinkling of cocoa in a sponge cake, and it is smoother and softer in texture.
The mulberry trees are reaching to the sky and need a trim to encourage bushing out, so that I can pick next spring’s crop of finger-inking berries without a ladder. I feel cruel cutting off tips that are so fiercely full of life. It takes a while to get used to that cruel to be kind aspect of gardening. I still can’t bring myself to thin out rows of vibrant rocket seedlings, so they end up growing thickly, vying for space and elbow room.
But I steel myself to deal with those pushy marigolds, planted to protect the other plants and now threatening to engulf them, deprive them of sunshine and air and take everything for themselves. A little trimming later, they look as huge as ever, but at least the path is clearer and the parsley and thyme now have some light. There is a vase of bright orange blooms on the dining table and a scattering of marigold prunings thrown on to an empty space, destined to hold garlic in a month or two, as mulch.
I never used to like the smell of marigolds much, but it’s growing on me, taking me out to my herb garden even when I am back inside, doors closed against the heat, typing away at the computer and gearing up for the dryer, dusty piece of work that awaits.