In the Garden Jungle

Every summer, there comes a time — inevitably, inexorably — when things start to get out of control.

Our garden, once thoroughly weeded, carefully pruned, and neatly tied to stakes and trellises, becomes a jungle.


The weeds are thigh high. The tomatoes and beans have grown so heavy that they’ve pulled to the ground the supports we installed so hopefully back in June. The pumpkins have trespassed their appointed rows, sprawled across the dry cucumber vines, and have become a major nuisance in the potato patch.


All it seems to take is a family road trip, a weekend getaway, or an out-of-town wedding. I turn my back for what seems like the briefest of moments, and the garden has gone rogue.

From then on, it’s all I can do to get the produce off the vines and out of the ground before it rots back into the earth. As for the weeds — if they aren’t taller than me, they simply aren’t worth bothering with anymore.


Like the brown and fading leaves, I’m tired.

Tired of bending and stooping, of creases in the skin of my knees from crawling over the dry grass we use for mulch. Tired of chlorophyll stains on my knuckles and dirt under my fingernails.

I still love these things as much as ever, but I’m tired of them, just as, at the end of a long day, I love my children dearly but am still very ready to put them to bed.

And already our garden jungle is getting ready to sleep. The beefsteak tomatoes are still producing, but the Roma vines have already withered. The cucumbers I didn’t manage to find in time are swollen and yellow. The snow peas are nothing more than a shriveled memory of crisp sweetness. The green beans are woody and tough, ready to be dried out for next year’s seeds, not this year’s eating.


The equinox has come, and the end is only weeks away.

So it’s all right with me if the garden is a bit jungly — more than a bit jungly, perhaps — now, in the last golden days of a golden summer.

The good earth has worked hard for us over the past months and has brought me and many others much delight.


And, as far as I’m concerned, it has earned the right to one crazy, weedy, riotous party before the hard frost comes.

“So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
— Matthew 13:28b-30