The wrong cut is the deepest

Before the cutThe cantaloupe vine began to wilt last week, its leaves folding in on themselves. This is the kind of situation in which I wish plants had little scrolling LED signs: GIVE ME MORE WATER, they would say. Or, GIVE ME LESS WATER. Or, YOU MISERABLE IMBECILE. WHY DID YOU PLANT ME WHEN I COULD HAVE GONE TO SOMEONE MORE WORTHY?

Unfortunately, my cantaloupe plant is particularly non-communicative. No press releases. No fireside chats.

I decided to trim back the worst of the dead growth, as well as to cut off any of the smallest baby melons, the ones with no chance of maturity. The plant seemed to be in about 50 percent good shape, with plenty of green leaves to support an extended life.

“Maybe you should just trim away all the good parts,” said Steve, who had come outside to see what I was doing. When I take a pair of scissors out to the garden and don’t return in five with some herbs and/or vegetables, it’s usually worthy of investigation.

“Ha ha,” I said, with vinegar.

Steve retreated to the house.

I cut away the vines, following them from dead leaves back to the plant, deciding where just a leaf should go, where the whole vine was so gone as to merit some serious chopping. It was like untangling computer wires, following them with your fingers back to the power strip to be sure you’re about to yank the right plug.

After the cutSomewhere along the line, I made a cut, then, in horror, realized the dead branch was still connected. I had cut through a live vine.

I crouched there, next to the plant, trying to figure out if maybe, with luck and duct tape, I could reconnect at the point of injury.

No. No, I could not.

At the very least, the vine connected to the two slowly growing melons remained intact. There was a slim chance I could salvage the plant. I told myself this as I pulled the sliced-off vine away, reeling it in, until I realized I’d just made the critical cut that killed half the plant. I meant to cut 50 percent of the leaves, not the plant.

I am such a rookie.

“How’d the trimming go?” Steve asked later in the evening.

“I cut off the good part, just like you suggested,” I said. “And I don’t want to hear about it.”

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7 Responses to “The wrong cut is the deepest”


  1. 1 Dori August 23, 2006 at 9:45 am

    For whatever it’s worth our pumpkin and squash vines died out. We have a few easy and early canteloupe (4″ when ripe size) plants producing. We have noticed these kinds of plants need consistently mist ground, previous years when I sold good at a local farmers market the people who lived by a river always had better melon goods than anyone else (doesn’t mean we can’t have good stuff, just that their will always be better and we will always struggle a bit more with these things). Last year I had the most gorgeous 7 – 10 pound pumpkins, this year they didn’t survive. Other than I don’t water and this year has been noted to be drier year than last not much else changed.

  2. 2 Steve August 23, 2006 at 1:58 pm

    Even when you don’t want to take my advice, you do. It’s touching.

  3. 3 Debra August 23, 2006 at 5:05 pm

    FWIW, most of my curcurbit plants (the melons and squashes.. and I’m sure I spelled that wrong) die off at some point in the summer. Often it’s a plant borer that has entered the stem. Sometimes it’s a disease. I just accept it.

  4. 4 inadvertentgardener August 23, 2006 at 9:23 pm

    Dori, I’ve heard that’s why the Muscatine melons are so good — they’re grown right on the Mississippi. Interesting….

    Steve, I love it when you give me the best possible advice and I follow it. :-)

    Debra, I’m definitely finding a much better place of acceptance at this point in the season.

  5. 5 jen jen August 24, 2006 at 8:48 pm

    your melon vines have bacterial wilt I think. Is carried by nasty cuke beetles. Once it starts the plants are toast. I have never grown a melon to fruition thanks to those little beasts. I spray and cover and curse to no avail. I keep trying though, as I seem to have a learning disability when it comes to melons.
    Hows the basil?

  6. 6 inadvertentgardener August 24, 2006 at 9:27 pm

    Jen Jen, that’s as valid a theory as I’ve heard yet. There certainly have been plenty of the dang cucumber beetles around…and now I’m seeing fewer of them. Go figure. They kill everything and run away.

    The basil is doing OK, but you’ll have to stay tuned for the full story there. :-)


  1. 1 The Inadvertent Gardener Trackback on August 25, 2006 at 5:08 am

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