The 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.
Somewhere 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.”