People and Plants Need Fresh Air. Duh, Susie.

I STOPPED AT SOUTH BEACH on Thursday. Didn’t intend to, didn’t stay long. But man, what a lungful of sea air and some brilliant sunshine can do for a girl.


I was out on assignment and early for an interview. So on a whim I drove to the end of Katama Road, pulled into a sandy parking spot next to the dunes, and hurried up and over the path, feeling my pace slow as the sand swallowed my shoes with every step.

And then that horizon. The Atlantic Ocean sparkling and uncharacteristically calm, the color of Coke bottle-sea glass bumping up against a Carolina blue sky. (Carolina, of course, nowhere to be seen. The next stop due south is the Dominican Republic, about 2500 miles away as the crow flies. For those of you not on the Vineyard, the screen grabs below will show you where South Beach — aka Katama Beach — is on the Island.)

I chided myself: ridiculous that I live on this Island and don’t afford myself this opportunity for nearly instant calm more often. Remarkably, my friend Liz gets up every single morning to photograph the sunrise over Nantucket Sound in Oak Bluffs. I am envious of her ability to do this, to get up early. But I am not willing to let go of the night, especially late night when the work is done and a pile of books waits for me.

But this morning the birds woke me up and I got out of bed. Hit the coffee button and padded out to the garden in my PJs. If one thing can lure me out of bed early, it’s the prospect of a garden inspection, Farmer along (mostly doing roly-poly’s on the mossy un-lawn under the seven-trunked oak).

This morning I am especially happy to be reminded of a gift that arrived yesterday. Two fine men, on the request of my partner, drove up the driveway, unloaded some freshly bought lumber, and built three new garden boxes for us.

The long one is for the dahlias. The dahlias that are still alive. Yes, I do feel a little bit like the boy who cried wolf, because the dahlias are hanging in there. But we’re not quite out of the woods yet. We still have plants with curling brown leaves, but they are in the minority.


It seems the rest of them needed fresh air, just like me. Duh.

My friend Laura the plant doctor (as opposed to my other gardening friend, Laura the horticulturalist) made a house call last week and declared the dahlias longing for sunshine and fresh air. She was right (she usually is). Clearly stressed out by the lack of adequate light and wonky watering, they grew too fast for their own good. They are definitely much taller than they should be at this point (meaning the stems are weak, and they’ll be an unwieldly size for transplanting in our windy climate), but they do seem to have really perked up in the sunshine.

Despite a busy work week (including a celebration for the Vineyard Gazette’s 175th birthday), I made time to put together those makeshift little hoop houses inside the fenced veggie garden. I had a roll of plastic, some wire hoops, clothespins, and bricks. A half hour here and there, and done. By midweek, more than half of the dahlias were spending the nights out there and their days in garden sunshine. I put all the pots in trays so that I could bottom-water them, which makes a whole lot of sense, because that’s the quickest way the water can get to the roots. If you pour water on top of the tuber, the tuber can’t use it – it will just rot if too wet. Plus the stems and leaves don’t like to be wet, either. 

Out in the garden, the peas and radishes are doing well, the garlic is thriving, and the sweet peas have germinated. It will be the first time I’ve ever grown sweet peas, the fragrant, old-fashioned cottage garden flower.

There is so much more to do out there — including setting up those three new beds — but I have to be patient. Even when I’m on deadline (which is most of the time), I have to remember that a little bit of fresh air and sunshine will work wonders if I just seek it out. 

P.S. The tomatoes mentioned to me that they would very much like to go outside this week, also, if only for an hour or two.


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One thought on “People and Plants Need Fresh Air. Duh, Susie.”

  1. So glad to know that your dahlias are not all dead! We’ve all done it – start too early, start too many seeds, crowd the seedlings, run out of grow-lights, force plants outside prematurely. Luckily many plants are tough enough to take it and thrive in spite of us. Thank goodness for row-cover!
    Really love your beautiful photographs!!

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