The Mast-Head: Sunday Farmers

I was particularly struck by the hosts’ vegetable garden, which was inside a veritable deer and rabbit-proof wire-mesh fortress

    On Saturday morning, I accompanied our son, Ellis, to a soccer get-together at a house not all that far from ours in Amagansett. While he and the other 4-year-olds kicked the ball around, the parents relaxed on a screened porch, eating muffins, drinking espresso, and feeling for the world as if we were in a stadium skybox writ small.

    The hosts were a couple I had not met before, and, as things go around here, talk turned quickly to houses, architects, and how long it takes to get things done.

     I was particularly struck by the hosts’ vegetable garden, which was inside a veritable deer and rabbit-proof wire-mesh fortress. Raised beds circled the interior perimeter; a center island of rich, dark soil awaited spring planting. By midsummer, I was told, the cage-like space would be dripping with tomatoes, herbs, kale, and flowers.

    Growing things out this way has become an exercise in exclusion. Deer will leap over anything less than a head-high fence or push down whatever they can to get to young sprouts. Three apple trees I planted at my mother’s place behind the Star office have been pruned sharply and repeatedly by their hungry mouths despite the wire barrier I put around them.

    Down at our place, my two garden beds have been ringed with a three-foot wire fence topped by bamboo since last year. After several growing seasons in which there was little to show, my fortress worked, keeping deer out and the plants safe.

    The trick for those of us with jobs and children is finding the time to actually get things growing. One of our soccer hosts, a doctor who practices two days a week in the city, pointed out several pots of ornamentals she intended to get in the ground but had not gotten to yet. A lingering chill in the air gave us an excuse, I said, mentioning six sugar pea seedlings I had yet to deal with.

    By the standards of some years, though, I am ahead. Both beds have been turned, the wire patched, and hoses and compost laid down. I have successfully gotten a few green things, like kale and collards, going from seed; I’ll pick out other seedlings at sales here and there.