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Home gardening, leave well enough alone


My bumpy oranges / photo Ethel Powers

In home gardening, leaving well enough alone sometimes results in wonderful surprises.

We poke, putter, pamper and fuss over our gardens, trying to get the best yield from our vegetables, flowers and fruits. Actually, some plants like cabbage prefer the attention but overall, we could do less of it.

This week, I had one of those surprises. My backyard needs renovating and I took down a fence and killed off the grass in hopes of getting things rolling quickly. That did not happen. With the lack of rain and working away from home, I could barely manage the front yard and Amaryllis bed. Consistent watering was out of the question.

I worried myself sick about the fruit trees and could barely stand to go out the back door to look at them. Then, as if that neglect was not enough, more projects rolled in leaving even less time to worry about them.

The grape vine had made its way over to the orange tree, loaded with a new crop of grapes and a beautiful sight that attracted humming birds and butterflies. On top of that, I am a big fan of Greek food and could barely stand the thought of not preserving the healthy leaves. My son ended up cropping it back to the supporting fence, all the while grumbling about wasting such a great yield.

The orange tree was in no better shape and we had to pull the vine out from its branches and top. Freeing it from the grape vine revealed the largest, most fragrant oranges we have ever had. They were also bumpy, something I had not seen before. I may not have had time to preserve the grape leaves but there was no way would the fruit go to waste.

When fruit is not sweet or fully ripe, I use them for smoothies, pies or preserves. I was curious as to how these tasted. The first slice sent juice everywhere and it ended up on my shirt and all over my face and arms. They were delicious, including the peel. Although the pith was thick, the sections came off easily. I stood at the sink and ate two with hesitation.

Further research shows that orange trees do best with very little watering and citrus get sweeter the longer it stays on the tree. Do not be alarmed at the bumpiness of your homegrown product. The ugliness is far less important than the taste or health benefits of freshly picked fruits.

In all the years of caring for the tree, this was the best crop ever. So you see, neglect is not always a bad thing and it taught me a lesson.

Sometimes, we just fuss too much.

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