Frost and the Lost Garden


Milo in Garden
Guest Rant by Robert Valenti

Mornings used to be spent in the garden. That was before the frost.

These days, I prefer to admire the garden through a bay-window in my kitchen. I stand before the window each morning, coffee in hand, and just stare.

I stare at the Labrador-Coonhound mix urinating on my Cherokee purples. I stare as he winks at me, circles, and sits to deliver a garden gift. I stare at the patch where my prized heirloom tomatoes once ripened sugar-sweet, now being defiled by a mutt. Probably a good thing, I convince myself. Ammonia might kill the blight. As for the other business, he is fed holistic food, and I will pick it up later.

When did my beautiful garden become a glorified dog-park? I should have finished putting up that new fence. Better yet, I should have never taken the old one down. Damn picket envy. I’ll get to finishing it soon enough. In the meantime, I’ll keep the lumber piled where it is, in the garden.

Pumpkins are done — vines shriveled, brittle, and grey. I’ll pull them later.

Cucuzza line my fence like Louisville Sluggers, spotted brown with rot. I’ll yank them with the pumpkins.

Ghostly shoots of pepper and eggplant sway in the breeze. Shriveled veggies still hang from them like pathetic ornaments. Later.

Somewhere in that garden is a traffic jam of bugs, beetles, and borers of the worst kind. They are all heading down to cuddle up and over-winter in the soil. I imagine these critters honking horns and hitchhiking on one another’s back. The thought of battling them next spring makes me sweat. I better get an early start and order all the ladybugs and diatomaceous earth North America has to offer — when I find the time.

It is cold outside. Birds are poolside somewhere in Aruba. There is much garden maintenance to be done. So I sip my coffee and continue to stare.

The garden was my child. How could I let it down this way?

“Poop patrol!” my wife calls to me.

“I know,” I tell her, nodding to our old Lab.

“Nope,” she says. “Here you go, Daddy.”

I grab our infant son from her outstretched hands and give the garden a final glance.

See you soon, old friend. I will take care of you. Not now, of course. Maybe later.

Yes, later.

Robert W. Valenti is a green-thumbed father, teacher, and writer living in New York. He has sold strawberries to Rachael Ray, herbs to Martha Stewart, and helps provide much of the produce used on the Food Network. To enjoy more of his humorous tales, visit:  One Cool Parent, One Cool Parent on Facebook, or Twitter: @OneCoolParent


  1. Dogs are creatures of habit. You might want to train yours to go somewhere else, so that he doesn’t feel like he “owns” your veggie garden next year.

    We had a Labrador who discovered that our veggie garden was a great place to bury his bones (nice soft, easily-dug soil); it took him years (and a few destroyed plants) to be cured of the habit, and even now, several years after his passing, I find the occasional bone. Probably good for the soil, but still.

  2. My wife and I have had vegetable garden for a few years and I always get a little saddened when the growing part is over for a few months but…

    … then there’s planning and preparing things for next season and you’re just hoping the weather will hold off for just another day or so.

    We have had a great fall. I even had engough time to double the size of our veggie garden. It did get a bit chilly a few days but now that doesn’t need to be done next spring.

    And through the winter I look out my office window into my back yard and dream of what’s to come.

  3. The garden will wait while that little one requires your focused attention. Gardens are patient…and just think of all the wonderful things you can teach that little one in a year or two out there in that garden!

  4. Thank you all for your thoughts and kind words.

    Yes, I am a weenie when it comes to the cold. But, as Leslie noted, “gardens are patient.” Raising my child is priority numero uno. I keep trying to tell that to the brambles and weeds, but they don’t seem to notice.

    As for the pooches…
    We worked it out. I give them each a dollar when they don’t go in the garden. Mabel has already saved enough for a downpayment on a new doghouse, and Milo is looking into college this spring 🙂

  5. I checked your site out…it was encouraging. Too bad I don’t wear underwear. No, really though, your garden and house look great. I wish I had that motivation.

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