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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash


Updated: Oct 11, 2022

As the holiday of Sukkot begins this evening it feels as though autumn is truly here.

This morning I could see my breath as I walked the dog and the tips of my fingers were

sore from the cold temperatures. This summer I couldn't even begin to imagine the autumn, especially during the long hot, dry period that occurred in July and August. It is hard to believe that the season passes so quickly.

I've posted a number of entries on this site from gardeners on why they garden, how they garden and what they get out of gardening. On Erev Sukkot, I'd like to add to their voices.

I am gardener, or maybe a wannabe gardener, a dabbler and an experimenter in the garden. Each year the slate is clean and I delight in the early spring dreaming of what can happen in the garden that summer. Each year I post some failures and occasional successes.

I'd like to share with you here a few gardening successes and even amazing things this past year that happened right within my own back (and front) yard. Some of these things were small successes and some downright miraculous; worthy of a bracha! Last, but not least, some of these things helped me learn a little and get excited for next year, all being well.

That's the thing about being a gardener. It involves a little bit of dreaming and a lot of reality. Maybe I am better at the dreaming part.

Here goes:

  1. In the early spring our pomegranate tree, which has grown in a pot now for somewhere between 15-20 years, flowered. The pomegranate tree has just stood there year after year. It is not an impressive potted tree. About 4 1/2 feet tall, it stands guard in our front yard, an underwhelming presences. Until this year when I noticed what I thought were pieces of red paper on the tree. FLOWERS! POMEGRANATE FLOWERS! They blew my socks off!! They were beautiful and sturdy and brilliant red. I knew that our tree is not strong enough to support the growth of the fruit, but the flowers were enough to cause my heart to skip beats of joy this year.

2. We grew an etrog!!!! Amazing!

The second notable success this summer, which has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with patience was that our etrog tree, also about 15-20 years old, supplied us with our first full grown, honest to goodness etrog ever! OK, it doesn't have a p'tom, but it is full grown, hanging on our lovely tree as I write this and getting ready to be picked for Sukkot.

Again, like our pomegranate tree, we think that our tree just needed to be strong enough to sustain a fruit growing on its branches.

3. The joy of container gardening.

We don't get enough sun in our back yard to really support good hardy growth of tomatoes.

Or maybe it is my soil, that needs work.

This year we sported a spiffy new back deck, which had plenty of sun and heat. I assembled an assortment of old kitchen drawers, wash buckets and paint buckets and planted cucumbers, Swiss chard, hot peppers, basil and morning glories and cherry tomatoes. I began with new soil and the plants were right in front of me, where I couldn't ignore them as the summer went on. I used new soil and despite the complication of keeping them all watered during the drought and heatwave, they never stopped producing this summer.

The basil didn't go to see early, the morning glories wove their way around the cucumber vines and the whole mess was a sight for sore eyes. We even had an errant tomatillo plant that appeared late summer! Surprises never cease to amaze me!

4. A few more unbelievable happenings!

This little reflection might read like small potatoes, but for me it was a point of great learning and satisfaction. This summer I planted my zucchini in a milk crate set up upon at wheelbarrow in the back yard. I had few expectations of my champion zucchini plant, because each summer I plant zucchini and after if has produced a couple of good zucchini it slowly and agonizingly withers due to powdery mildew. This summer, again I think because of new and fresh soil and because it was up off of the ground, where critters could easily consume it, the zucchini plant never got powdery mildew and although it was not a heavy producer, it is still alive, even now in mid October. Wonders never cease!

This post would not be complete without the fig the trees. Taller than me and much wider, too, we lug them in and out of the house now for more than 20 years. Each year we get a few larger figs in the late spring and then beginning in late August we get about 2-3 dozen mini brown figs that are sweet and delicious. These trees require little attention from us. Their leaves are soft and spectacular and their fruit worthy of poetry.

5. Oh gee, there is more to write, but cooking calls. In brief, we did well with our peppers. Thank God for hot peppers! They don't require a great deal of attention and they quietly produce and produce. So grateful. Our eggplants, also plants that don't require much from us, produced away.....It felt so good to cook them and feel like the earth supplied us with such gifts.

We our fortunate, due to my husband's fruit tree passion, to have sour cherries, persimmons and quinces growing in the yard. The persimmons are falling now and are as sweet as brown sugar. Their consistency is a little off putting, but their taste is tantalizing. I'm still trying to figure out what to do with the quinces, other than jelly. That is a task for another day.

6. The story of the bay tree.

This is a story of resilience. This bay tree, also very old, has survived me forgetting to water it. It survives the plague of scale each year. This year it was so inundated that I thought we would have to part with it. But......we let nature do its job. We brought it (it is heavy and big!) down to the yard and let the ants feast on it for a few months and there it began to grow again. The bay is an example for all of us. Don't give up!!!!

7. Last, but not least, I cannot finish this post of gratitude, without noting our milkweed forest and pokeberry shrubs. Despite being wild and not desirable by perhaps our neighbors, these plants give us joy all throughout the growing season. The butterflies love them and the birds and the bees. Our little oasis for them at 1047.

And so it is.

And so it goes.

Another season behind us.

Time to turn on the fireplace.

Time to breathe frosty air.

Time to eat in the Sukkah.

Wishing all of you a blessing.

May you always grow and don't let the mistakes get in your way. There's joy in the mistakes, too!

Looking forward to the spring.


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