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Fishman: Good clean dig in the dirt
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Since I’ve been away from Savannah for a month or so my hands, especially my fingernails, have never been cleaner. So this is how most people live (or are supposed to live). 

I don’t have to do my laundry as often either. And when I do, my brights are brighter and my whites whiter.

Gardening can take its toll. I could even go out and get a manicure.

But what’s the first thing I’m going to do when I roll into Savannah this week for the fall plant swap? Pull weeds off the burgeoning broccoli plants (and out from between the bricks on the meandering path, which at this point probably looks like anything but a path).

Yank vines from the cache of baby collard plants, stuck in as seedlings in early September. Tear beach daisy from its destructive path through the onion sets, over the sugar cane and around the flowering plum.

Pry what’s left of the aggressive passion flower brigade, which if left to its druthers would march all the way to the sea (the hungry and rapacious butterflies do a pretty good job of decimating this hard-to-eradicate plant ).

Lift the dead swamp sunflowers up, up and away from the thick clump of those that are still just starting to put out those gorgeous fall yellow flowers.

Snip the oddly named greenbriar vine that would sooner rip your clothes and cut your hands than disengage itself from your garden.

I wouldn’t have to do any of that if I didn’t need the space. If I waited for cold weather or one little nippy night nature would take care of all that for me. Then clearing away last season’s detritus would be a breeze (and I could keep my nails clean and my manicure intact).

But I must make room for what I pick up from Saturday’s plant swap, something you can never plan for. There’s always someone who pulls up with a pickup full of stuff I haven’t counted on coveting, like the cerissa topiaries someone just emailed me she intends to bring.  The few cerissas I have planted have been terrific - minimal care, sweet white blooms, steady growth. A plant that knows its place and doesn’t try to take over.

But will I be able to snag the cerissa? We don’t know. People who come to these plant swaps have developed a quick eye for the unusual, a good nose for the unique. They know to keep an eye out for the next arriving person. You have to come prepared to pounce on what you like and then to hide it.

Everything is fair game. I’ve seen people try to dig up some of my own plants in this garden. Well, maybe  it’s their first time.

I must also make room for garlic. Filaree Farms in Okanogan, Wash., which is in the north central part of the state, is just starting to mail out garlic bulbs, those round papery things, comprised of a group of individual wedges or toes. Though they look much like what you buy in the supermarket I suspect they are superior. They do come from Romania and Poland and Canada. They have to be superior with names like purple stripe, porcelain, silverskin, turban, creole, rocambole.

Got an extra field near your house or somewhere in your neighborhood? Why not try planting  some of these little puppies? Like all vegetables, they like sun and they take a long time to put on weight.

But what fun in, say, June or early July, to pull them out, skin ‘em and throw ‘em into the skillet. (I told you they have a long growing season.). Maybe they’ll even keep away a few evil spirits along the way. Nothing wrong with that.

They look a lot like onions when young. But sometime in the last trimester the leaves start to curl; then you know.

And I definitely have to make room for all varieties of lettuce seeds I plan to broadcast. The hardest part about growing lettuce is bending down, way down, elbows to the ground down, to pick it. 

I know the stretch is good  - although my neck tells me the opposite the next day - but one of these decades I’m going to have to build something a little higher off the ground.

If I can find the seeds I’m going to plant spinach, too. Suddenly, since we can’t buy it - we all know about the E-coli scare; the last batch of mixed greens I came home with had a sticker that read, “No spinach, Sans epinard” -  I’m craving spinach, a green that according to Wikipedia, the people’s online encyclopedia, goes back to 647 when some Chinese person referred to it as “the herb of Persia.”

How timely. Persia (or Iran) and spinach in one sentence. Who said gardeners don’t know what’s going on? Or can’t get a manicure?

See you at the plant swap. Call 484-3045 for more information.